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very coarse veil designed to discourage the onslaughts of flies. I was more impressed by this array than I should have been had the little colonel revealed himself in the full panoply of Arthur's court. Why have we come without helmets and pugarees?
Somehow or other the Professor and I managed to get past the ranks of banditti without buying any. thing, or hiring a steed. We were determined to walk. We had heard great tales of Assiut and its bazaars, and we wanted to see them before the rest of the sowaheen got at them. But we had not reckoned on the heat, or the distance, or the dust, or the flies. The latter were painfully persistent and it was only by constant waving of handkerchiefs that we were able to see — or breathe. Nothing more annoying than the flies of Egypt can well be imagined. They have been trained to regard man as a harmless sort, tolerant of whole congregations and synods of fies, and unwilling to brush them off. After seeing several children covered with the pests we did not wonder. Nor did we greatly marvel at the tale told us in Cairo by the medical authorities, to the effect that, of the people in that neighborhood, something like eightyfive per cent suffered from the worst of all eye diseases! If any country stands in need of an antifly campaign, it is Egypt.
I am reminded that the work of the British med
ical men in Egypt in dealing with this form of trouble has been amazingly successful. As one of them lately remarked, “The reason is, these men don't ask any miracles. If you were to save a small portion of a man's sight at home he might not thank you much. But here all they ask is to be able to see their way along the street -- and we're able to do much more than that in many cases. So we have ophthalmic hospitals scattered all about, and the results are highly satisfactory both to them and to us.” More would be accomplished, however, if the flies were n't allowed to swarm at will over the diseased eyes and wander on to others.
By keeping everlastingly at it along a dusty highroad, we passed the palaces — they were no less — of a great multitude of foreign consuls, came to the railway, crossed it, and turned to the right at last into what proved to be the main street. It was not at all a bad street, either. A few dilapidated carriages standing about testified that the town recognized the needs of the sowaheen and argued the presence of a road outside of the town -- an uncommon thing in Egypt. But the shops were not up to expectation, and the bazaars, when we finally located them, were not remarkable. They were grouped in a narrow lane which led off to the left from the midst of the main thoroughfare --a lane which proved deliciously dark and cool after the glare of the outer world and its blazing noontide heat. Overhead, it was covered with a roof of light boards and skins. Beneath, it was being sprinkled from a water-skin borne by a panting Arab. On every side were booths, all small and tidy, from whose walls depended barbaric rugs and shawls — but no such shawls as one sees at the landing-stage. In fact, those shawls were the hardest things to find, save at the wharf, in all Assiut. Much more common as a staple article of trade appeared to be the rude, coarse rugs of the kind commonly called “kelîm.”
Bargaining in the bazaars proved to be immensely difficult and was largely conducted by a show of fingers. Moreover, as Huckleberry Finn remarked of Miss Watson's prayers in the closet,"nothing come of it,” and we passed quite unladen to the other end of the bazaar district and out upon a winding highway that led in and out among white buildings, all dominated by a minaret, whence at that moment the muezzin was calling the attention of the faithful to the fact that it was noon and that Allah was in his heaven.
We struck some sort of bargain with the driver of a broken-down depot carriage and got ourselves carried back to the ship. It was much too hot to walk -- and besides we had an excursion ahead of us for the afternoon. At the time I had a feeling that Assiut had been overrated – but that feeling has gone now, as I think of the view we had of it later from the desert heights, a white town on a gradual hill under the bluest of afternoon skies.
The experiences of the afternoon were not in themselves exciting. They amounted to marching up a hill and marching down again, after the inspection en route of some rock-tombs, which Baedeker sees fit to glorify with his laudatory asterisks, but which are really quite inferior to the tombs at Beni Hassan.
Disdaining the donkeys, Katrina and I rode out in another of those decrepit carriages to the foot of the cliffs, over a road which I imagine cannot be duplicated for all-around roughness in all Egypt. It was simply a broad path lined with trees, along the ridge of a convenient dike. The Professor, who must needs mount a donkey every time one is offered him, regarded our luxury with an air of superior disdain, but was speedily humiliated before us all by the breaking of a girth-strap-an accident which did no harm, but which added to the gayety of the assembled nations. I shall not soon forget the spectacle of that surprised and bearded savant, prone on his broad back in the dust of the highway and gazing reproachfully up into the face of his steed — who, in turn, gazed reproachfully down.
As for the rock-tombs, they are reached only by a sharp scramble up the face of the cliff on the slopes of a mass of convenient detritus that has fallen from the upper rocks. They resemble the tombs at Beni Hassan without being nearly as interesting to the novice. Of course they also are called “Stables of Antar," because that is to be expected of every cavern in Islam. Only two of the several tombs in the vicinity are shown to visitors, and neither is likely to make much impression after the finer examples already seen in other sites. The decoration is not nearly as good, and apparently it has little interest or value even to the student. Some mummified birds and animals were shown us, and even the mummy of a babe — which was offered for sale. No takers.
The view from the shelf of rocks in front of the tombs, and especially from the heights above them, is more splendid, however, than the view at Beni Hassan. Raschid made us climb up higher over the slope until we stood well above and commanded a broad sweep over the fertile plain, in the midst of which Assiut rose on its white hillock like the boss of a shield. Below spread the level fields of the Nile bottom stretching out for many miles. The eastern cliffs retreated to the far horizon and left such a smiling intervale of verdure as we had not hitherto seen in the upper reaches of the river. On this prospect we feasted our eyes until it was time to go — then