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energy, except those who did not go the excursions; and for other purposes,such as conversation, in which even the younger men and the girls took a part-apart—the whole of the saloon deck was closed in awnings, like the balcony over Dodo's front door when her people were giving a dance. The only drawback to this was that people who wanted to see the stars had to climb on the roof, which was lonely. Another excuse people made was that they were going to see the reises, the Arab pilots who steer the boats from the roof, whom they always spoke of as the races. The servants on Cook's boats spoil you for any other servants; they hang about you like shadows in soft white robes, wondering what you could want next. There was a misanthrope, who was travelling on the Rameses the Great with us, who really did spend every winter in travelling up and down the Nile in Cook's boats. He said that the reason they were so attentive was because they had read in " Al-Lewa” that all the people who travel on Cook's boats are mad; and Mohammedans always treat mad people as under the special protection of Heaven-a pleasing Arab variation of our proverb, “Whom the gods love, die young."
Tea is not laid on Cook's boats; these white-robed spirits hover round you with tea-pots and milk-jugs and sugarbasins, and a dozen different kinds of Huntley & Palmer's biscuits.
In the same way at meals they notice what titbits you like, and observe your idiosyncrasies in the arrangement of your toilet-requisites round washing-stand and mirror. Is there any one who is not particular about the place occupied by his toothbrush when at rest?
Cook's cabin-stewards take a special delight in cleaning your boots, which they do most beautifully, but they are liberal in their use of unguents. I heard the lady next door to me tell Mohammed only to dust her kid shoes, and not to put anything on them. I heard him reply: "I see; no Nugget."
No matter what your idiosyncrasy was, Mohammed would humour it. One of mine was that, since lights went out at eleven, I wished to see the whole machinery of dawn and sunrise. The moment Mohammed saw the first streak he came and woke me, and as soon as practicable afterwards brought me tea and Huntley & Palmers. Then I regarded the sunrise from my bed, if there was nothing special to take me on deck, until the sun was in full swing.
Then I got up and had my bath. But I jumped out of bed, and flew up on deck in a dressing-gown, at frequent intervals, when there were ruins or scenery or, better still, shoals to look at.
To look at the shoals when the Nile is beginning to fall is like going to a wireless zoological gardens. On the same shoal, if you cannot see a lion lying down with a lamb, you can see the eagle going to sleep with the goose in perfect cordiality. On one shoal I have seen various kinds of eagles, vultures, falcons, storks, cranes, ducks, geese, pelicans, ibises, and other water birds, too rare for me to know, or too unimportant to mention. I used to hope against hope that I should see a crocodile, but the last crocodile below the cataracts was shot by Lord Fitzhardinge many years ago. It was a little thing of sixteen feet long, which had found its way down unobserved.
I never saw the birds disagreeing among themselves, and they, like us, felt secure under the protection of Thomas Cook & Sons, who allow no shooting from their steamers. They know a Cook's steamer as well as possible, and never stirred from their nice, “comfy” shoal when we passed. The beautiful dark-blue-and-white Nile kingfishers were much more restive, as they darted in and out of their pigeon-holes in the bank; but the wild pigeons knew that they were safe as well as the water-birds did, and used to come down and splash very prettily in the early morning. Probably they were not wild. The inhabitants of the pigeon-towers look just like wild pigeons, and they would feel doubly safe. They must know by this time what a fuss there is when Europeans fire at them.
There is one sight which you see all day and every day on the Nile, and it furnishes the kodaker with some of his best subjects-that is, the drawing of water from it for irrigation by sakiyas and shaddfs. The sakiya consists of a vertical wheel, with a belt of pitchers fastened to its rim, large enough to dip into the river at the bottom and empty its pitchers into a little fume at the top of the bank, which feeds the irrigation channel. This vertical wheel is driven, by means of cogs, by a sort of capstan turned by some animal-a cow or a buffalo, a camel or an ass. A little boy, more or less naked, sits on the capstan and whips the animal if it tries to stop. His parent or master whips the boy if he tries to stop. He cannot escape detection, because the ill-greased sakiya groans so loudly all the time that it is labouring. The groaning of the sakiya is one of the universal sounds of rural Egypt, commoner even than the barking of the village dogs.
The shadůf is a much more picturesque affair, especially if it is a treble or quadruple one. I have seen them quintuple. They have the merit of costing nothing but labour to make. About eight feet above the level of the river the Egyptian digs a hole. On each side of it he builds a pillar of mud and canes about five feet high and three feet apart. They are connected by a cross piece of wood at their tops, and to this is slung a lever with a lump of mud at one end, sufficiently heavy to carry up the bucket, slung by two long sticks from the other end, when it is full of water. A man stands beside the sticks and pulls them down to dip the bucket, generally made of leather or basketwork, into the river. When it is full he gives it a jerk upwards, and the mud weight at the other end of the lever pulls it high enough to empty into the hole between the pillars, from which it flows into an irrigation channel ; or, if the bank is more than eight feet high, it feeds a second shadaf raised eight feet above the first. I have seen a bank forty feet high surmounted by a rising scale of five shadafs, and I have often seen a twin shaduf worked by two men to fill the hole quicker. This is very necessary, for the shadüf bucket is quite a small triangular affair, and spills a lot of its water every time. Hoisting a shadaf is very hard work, so, except in winter, its workers are bronze statues. In many places where the north wind is particularly severe they build screens of reeds to shelter the shadüf men. Being Egyptians they don't mind how much sun they get on their bare backs and heads.
There was a rush of kodakers for every five-decker shadif. Nile villages and towns were also grateful subjects. I think the Nile is the most picturesque river in the world, because the whole of Egypt is, as it were, on its banks. This is almost literally true ; nine-tenths of the population of Egypt see the Nile every day. The whole of its banks, for a width varying from a few yards to a few miles, are studiously cultivated with the water raised from it by sakiya and shadaf. You pass an unending procession of green crops and grain crops, palm groves and acacia groves, villages and cities. I never saw the Nile without a human being in sight. As my Dutch-American friend said: “It looks as if it would have been empty long ago if those shadaf fellers weren't filling it up all the time."
Those villages and cities, I shall never forget them! They looked like an artist's creations for the embellishment of landscapes. I liked them best when they were ports with half a dozen tall gyassas tied to the bank, with their great yards hanging over the river like gigantic fishing-rods, and their ragged crews making processions to the shore and return processions along two narrow planks, taking on or putting off the cargo of water-kullas, or corn in striped bags, or baskets of earth-something, at any rate, which made them look like the Canephori of Phidias on the frieze of the Parthenon.
Egyptians must be recklessly extravagant about waterkullas, because you see myriads of them coming down the Nile, packed as high as villages, on the Nile merchantmen. When they no longer hold water they use them for building; in a mud house a row of broken water-bottles along the top under the roof is the easiest way of securing ventilation. A port is only a port because the town is important enough for vessels to stop there. It has no harbour, and no wharf unless it is patronised by Thomas Cook & Son, who moor
1 There are a few wells worked on the shadnf principle in Sicily. There is one, for example, at the Rotonda at Syracuse.
a barge, which serves for both wharf and storehouse. The community generally follows suit and moors another barge. In a river with a rise and fall like the Nile these are almost the only practicable wharfs.
The long slope from the port to the village, which stands just above flood level, is occupied by the inhabitants and their animals in various attitudes of graceful abandon--the goats probably by the water's edge, swarming together like newly born caterpillars, and the women descending by a well-worn track with kerosene tins on their heads to draw water for drinking from the goaty Nile.
Nile villages are built of mud, and, for getting architectural effects without expense, there is nothing like mud in a dry climate. An Egyptian village often looks like one of the little fortified towns of Albrecht Dürer, or Benozzo Gozzoli, especially the latter, because it usually has a grove for a background, though it replaces the pine-tree with the palm. It often has a curtain wall like a castle. It has as many towers as Nuremberg, though they are only garrisoned with pigeons, and largely built of misfit water-jars. The omdeh's house has perhaps an arcade, and whitewash. The oddest items in the village's architecture are the huge mud fonts, six or seven feet high, the base being a yard high, and the bowl a yard high and a yard or two across, In these receptacles they keep their grain from the goats, and their children from the snakes and scorpions. The mosque, when you can see it, looks less like an implement of religion than they do. There is nothing to distinguish it but a poor little yellow lighthouse of a minaret. The cemeteries, which stretch away from the village into the desert, are generally more imposing than the dwellings of the living, especially if they are rich in the whitewashed mud-domes of saint and sheikh. The dogs stand on the walls when they are not doing their duty of freeing the village of garbage. You hear nothing but the droning of the village school.
The villages in Upper Egypt are roofed with loose reeds. The village sakiya takes the place of the village pump, and the women gossip as they let the Nile gurgle into their pitchers.