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mosque at the end, which had a quaint minaret, a tomb-dome, and an arcade-old, shapeless, and charming. This was the mosque that used to span the Bahr Yûsuf. But the course of the canal has been deflected, and it no longer tunnels through Saracenic arches under the venerable structure.
In the same way the delightful old Saracenic bridge carrying an ancient piece of the bazar across the canal, which has formed the subject of so many pictures, has been sacrificed to modern utilitarianism, much to the loss of Medinet Fayum from the tourist-attractions point of view. Even the famous "high-lift water-wheel" on the Tamiya Canal has gone. On the way back we unearthed two modest curio shops, one with some very good things in it-of which anon. There are no shops in the town worthy of the name except a few moderately good Greek grocers-Medinet is sufficiently unspoiled to depend on its bazar.
Towards sundown we wended our footsteps to Crocodi. lopolis, the Arsinoë of the Ptolemies, the Shodit of the Pharaohs. The ruins of that classical city on Lake Kurun, the great Lake Moeris of the ancients, at which the sacred crocodiles with jewels on their feet (and possibly gilt, which must have interfered very much with their comfort) came to be fed with delicacies intended for human stomachs. They must have felt more bored than poodles. It is many a day, perhaps two thousand years and more, since Lake Moeris came to meet the terraces of Crocodilopolis, if it ever did
Scientific opinion prefers to think that the sacred crocodiles were kept in mere ponds. There is no geological trace of the lake having extended so far—it is not certain that even the colossi of Biahmu were on the lake."
"There has been a city on the site of Medinet-Fayum for four or five thousand years. The Pharaohs called it Shodit, “the Reclaimed," from the draining of the Great Marsh. The crocodile god, Sobku, the chief of the aqueous gods, was naturally most in favour. Maspero speaks of "the unique character of the religious rites which took place there daily. The sacred lake contained a family of tame crocodiles, the image and incarnation of the god, whom the faithful fed with offerings---cakes, fried fish, and drinks sweetened with honey. Advantage was taken of the moment when one of these creatures, wallowing on the bank, basked contentedly in the sun. Two priests opened his jaws, and a third threw in
Of the ancient splendours of Crocodilopolis nothing remains but the site and a few foundations. These cover a large area, but two things militate against a proper examination-a Mohammedan cemetery of large extent has grown up among the ruins, and the thrifty fellah has been using the debris, to manure the fields on account of the nitrates which it contains. By far the most antique-looking thing in Crocodilopolis is the mastaba, of poor modern masonry, in which a potter has established himself with the primitive, wheel and table that were in use in the time of the Pharaohs. This mastaba, built of pots, was like a bit of ancient Egypt-for it was in form of the tombs round the Pyramids, and had a column up its centre, and a light roof of reeds, under which a boy sat spinning,
The eternal demand for bakshish was not long delayed. I wonder why nobody has discovered the hieroglyphic for bakshish yet. It must have existed. Crocodilopolis is a "potter's field” in the New Testament sense ; there are not even mud-brick ruins of any importance. Yet it was capable of looking picturesque with its fringe of palms, and the right atmospheric effects.
Night changed the whole scene for us. The other Syrian to whom we had brought an introduction, Mr. Nicholas Khouri Haddad, came in just as night fell. All Medinet talks of Nicholas Khouria singularly handsome boy of twentyone in absolutely correct English riding kit. We were not to make any plans, he said, we were just to tell him what we wished to see, and what time we had at our disposal. He would fill it all in, and show us anything else which he thought we ought not to miss. He would arrange for carriages, donkeys, boats, anything that was necessary; and he insisted on taking us out in his carriage, there and then, for a drive through the rich fields of the Fayum in the dusk.
the cakes, the fried morsels, and finally the liquid. The crocodile bore all this without even winking ; he swallowed down his provender, plunged into the lake, and lazily reached the opposite bank, hoping to escape for a few minutes from the oppressive liberality of his devotees. As soon, however, as another of these approached, he was again beset at his new post, and stuffed in a similar manner.”
The drive was delightful. The Fayum has such glorious palm groves—such marvellous green crops enveloping the palm groves like a sea, and studded, as the fields in Egypt always are, with men and beasts. One did see such happy families of humans and animals in the palm-ringed clover at sunset. And for us there was a delicious touch of the wilds about it, when, as we were passing a deep lush field of berseem, the green forage on which all the animals of Egypt live in the spring-time, a large porcupine came half out of the hedge, and stood looking at us. I need not describe the procession of Egypt which passed us as we flew homewards, through the dusk, for it was beggared by the marvellous procession of the half-Bedâwin people which met us on our drive out to the great lake on the following day.
After dinner we went out to see the Fayum by moonlight. Venice is hardly more beautiful. It is Venice with a horizon of palms. The moon and the long line of lights made magic on the water. In the moonlight the irregular outlines of the palaces of the rich landowners along the canal looked enchanting, and just now there was the added note of the gay flutter of red-and-white flags (erected weeks ahead in that dry climate for the approaching visit of the Khedive). It was simply glorious, that moonlight picture of palms and water. Beyond the water, at the foot of the palms, were little will-o'the-wisp lights. These came from a small black village with houses four feet high. The poor little glimmer of lamps of old Pharaonic patterns showed empty mud interiors. The people were squatting outside, and began talking to us in Arabic with pleasant, smiling voices. Nicholas Khouri rated them soundly: they did not know that any one who could speak Arabic was with us, least of all the principal inhabitant, the great employer of the district. It showed us how treacherous the Egyptians are; their smiles, their voices, suggested all manner of pleasant things, but what they said was foul and filthy. Outwardly the Egyptian likes to make himself pleasant and popular, but at heart he is an animal to which it is useless to offer pearls.
At one end of the village there was a tent stretched from
the top of a reed fence, with a low table of food, and cooking utensils, and the Sheikh and his family and a dog lying in front of it. The hut was occupied by two donkeys and a goat. No matter where you wander in Medinet, by moonlight the effect is enchanting ; but, above all, outside the town, on the Bahr Yûsuf, you get inimitable outlines.
We were loth to return, and when we were in the hotel hung about the balconies looking at the moonlight. We had not been asleep long before we were awakened by the chanting of the Koran, with which Mohammedans accompany marriages and deaths, and, I dare say, births. There was such a volume of it that we heard it a quarter of a mile off. When it drew near we saw a procession of people with candles and shades fastened to rods on their shoulders, and the clusters of cressets fixed on frames which are called meshals. For the rest, it was only a throng of turbans with a very worn Hadji, returning from his pilgrimage to Mecca, in their midst, and a little child carried astride on a shoulder. They take a pilgrimage to Mecca very seriously in the Fayum.
On the next day we had to start very early by train to Ebshwai, where we found a carriage waiting to drive us out to the Karun Hotel, on the mysterious Lake Moeris, now called Karun or Kurun. Except for the palms, the Fayum might be the English fen country; it is not like Egypt at all.
I am not going to enter here into the question whether Lake Moeris did or did not cover the whole of the Fayum in ancient times. The archæologists, on one side, are relying on the remains and on Herodotus; the engineers, on the other, are relying on levels, which, according to them, make it quite impossible for the country to have been submerged in the manner indicated. Even with its present bounds Lake Moeris is the largest freshwater lake in Egypt, and has a considerable population congregated round it—the worst people, so the Khedive himself informed me, of any in Egypt, except in a small patch of the Delta. He accounted for it by the fact of their having more Bedâwin blood in them than any other settled population.
The day we chose to go to the lake was, fortunately, market-day in Ebshwai. All the lake-siders were making their way to it, the very best market-people we ever saw. There were Holy Family groups galore, the father riding on an ass with the child in his arms or astride of the ass's neck, and the mother a-pillion behind him. The women had huge gold nose-rings, and barbaric gold necklaces that would have done for the daughter of a Pharaoh. Once in a way we met the wife riding and her husband leading the ass, as in Roman Catholic countries; over and over again we met the husband riding and the wife walking by the ass. There were the usual sheikhs, in white robes, on very fine donkeys, gaily caparisoned ; the usual child, riding barebacked on the impracticable buffalo. One thing I noted, that though the women went in for enormous ear-rings and nose-rings, rows and rows of gold beads round their necks, processions of gold and silver bracelets on their arms, not one of them wore the anklets so universal in other parts of Egypt. One woman was wearing twenty bracelets.
The girls, all of them, had the desert elegance, and were mostly very pretty, though to us their faces were spoilt a little by the blue tattooing of the tribe-mark round their mouths and temples. They carried the oddest things on their heads. One had a regular batterie de cuisine; another a goose sitting in a big saucepan-disagreeably prophetic for the goose ; while six pigeons, six goslings, and a large turkey filled the baskets on the heads of others ;-combinations hardly too daring for a Rue-de-la-Paix hat-shop in that year of grace. For miles before we got near it we could see the gleam of the great lake, and women passed us with fish upon their heads. The plain between us was evidently inundated land, for it was covered with rich fields of maize and berseem, and barley or bearded wheat--one can hardly distinguish them in Egypt. Now, in March, they were ploughing for the cotton, wherever the berseem was cut. The plain was only broken by a few saints' tombs and the white hotel by the lake's edge. In the Fayum they use what we call the Virgilian plough, as the men of the Pharaohs did before them.