« PreviousContinue »
SANCTUARY IN KARNAK
-A PART WITH THEM OF A VANISHED DAY
of destruction, struggling to check their locomotion, their feet set straight ahead, skirts, scarfs, hats, hair streaming down the wind. It was no time for scenery-Egyptian scenery; we knew nothing, could attend to nothing, till at the towering entrance of the great Temple of Karnak we came to a sudden and confused halt.
We dismounted there, shook ourselves together, and stared wonderingly up at those amazing walls whose relief carving and fresco tints the dry air of this rainless land has so miraculously preserved. And then presently we noticed that Gaddis, our guide for the Nile, had stepped quietly out before us, and with that placid smile he always wears had lifted his hand to the records of his ancestors.
I want to speak a word just here of Gaddis. He is pure Copt, and the name “Copt” is from “Gypt”— that is, “Egypt”—the Copts being the direct descendants of the race that built ancient Thebes. His color is a clear, rich brown; his profile might be a part of these wall decorations. Then there are his eyes—mere dreamy slits, behind which he dwells in an age far removed from ours, while his lips wear always that ineffable smile which belongs only to Egypt, its sculpture and its people, the smile that regards with gentle contemplation — and compassion — all trivial things. Young in years, Gaddis is as old as these monuments in reflection and mental heritage—a part with them of a vanished day. And but for his fez and little European coat, which with the sash and figured skirt complete the dress of the Egyptian guide, Gaddis might truly have been plucked from
these pictured walls. I should add that he reads the hieroglyphics and has all languages on his tongueEnglish, French, German — the Egyptian is born with these, I think; his voice is a drowsy hum that is pure music; his temper is as sweet and changeless as his smile.
So much for Gaddis. He stood now with his lifted hand directed to the panoramic story of the past; then, in slow, measured voice:
“Zis is ze great temple of Karnak-ze work of many king. Here you will see ze King Ram-e-ses II. wiz ze crown an' symbol of Upper an' Lower Egypt, making sacrifice of fruit and fowl an' all good sings to ze gawd Amm-Ra, in ze presence of Horus, ze hawk-headed sun-gawd, an' Anubis an' Osiris, ze gawd of ze under-worlid.”
Thus it was our sight-seeing in Upper Egypt began. XL
KARNAK AND LUXOR
THE Temple of Karnak cannot be described. The
I guide-books attempt it, but the result is only a maze of figures and detail for which the mind cares little. All the Greek temples on the Acropolis combined would make but a miniature showing by the side of Karnak. Most of the Egyptian kings, beginning as far back as 3000 B.C., had a hand in its building, and for above two thousand years it was in a state of construction, restoration, or repair. The result is an amazing succession of halls and columns, monoliths, and mighty walls-many of them tumbled and tumbling now, but enough standing to show what a race once flourished here. Long ago the road over which we came from Luxor was an avenue eighty feet wide and a mile and a half long, connecting the two great temples. It was faced on each side with ram-headed sphinxes only a few feet apart. Most of them are gone now, but the few mutilated specimens left prompt one's imagination of that mighty boulevard. The Karnak of that day, with its various enclosures, is said to have covered a thousand acres. The mind does not grasp that, any more than it comprehends the ages of its construction, the history it has seen. It is like trying to grasp the distance to the stars. No one may say who began Karnak, but the