May 15, 2012

At Derr, 1840 | Walking Through Egypt

At Derr, 1840
Mrs. M. Carey

Egyptian Derr
Derr is quite a comfortable-looking town. It is the capital of Nubia, and is worly the distinction, for the houses are much larger and better built than in any other of the towns. They all have doors and at least the appearance of cleanliness. The streets, though three or four inches thick in unavoidable dust, are also very clean. There are large open spaces, ‘squares’ we might call them, planted round with date-trees, which Mohammed said were used for the meetings of the ‘Parliament’, by which grand title he designated any meeting of any kind, in village or town. The date-trees are all protected by little mud walls to the height of four or five feet, and in the centre of one of the squares is a large ‘Egyptian fig- tree’ (a species of sycamore).
Close on the river’s bank is a Roman ruin, over-shadowed by one of these large trees, and now inhabited by some of the grandees of Derr. It is a picturesque object, and is backed by a large grove of beautiful palm-trees, all equally protected with walls like those in the square. Under one of them we observed a small mud trough with three circular holes in it, quite black with castor-oil mixture [used as a cosmetic for the hair] which had been manufactured in it by the ‘belles’ of Derr.

The People of the Country, 1836
William Ramsay
Jan 17, beyond Derr. The country grows wilder and more picturesque. The varieties of inhabitants are remarkable; each village appears to have a different race at one point, a group of thoroughbred Negroes at another, that race we call (whether rightly or no) Nubians, a handsome interesting people, not black, though nearly approaching to it at another, the Berbers (I suppose), a peculiarly fine set, with the free independent air of the desert, and simple elegant dress. They are considered as having the best character of any people in every respect. The Arabs also here and there appear, the same as in Egypt.

The women’s dress in some places is peculiarly elegant, consisting of wide trousers, drawn tight to the ankle, and apparently continued as a sort of boots over the shoes. These reach to the waist; the upper robe is very elegantly formed, apparently of a double cloth, square, with a hole for the head, which is passed through it, and then falls gracefully over the whole body. The hair is always in layers of curls, with something black on the top. The whole dress is of coarse unbleached linen cloth, and has a thoroughly different appearance from that of the Arab women, which is always deep blue or black. But I have seen none of them near; they never show themselves, nor ever appear in company with the men, who come in troops down to the bank.

I Fell in with . . . , 22nd March, 1813
John Lewis Burckhardt
At one hour and a half, ascended a steep sandy mountain ... on the west side the mountain bears the name Ebsambal, probably a Greek word. . . . When we reached the top of the mountain I left my guide, with the camels, and descended an almost perpendicular cleft, choked with sand, to view the temple of which I had heard many magnificent descriptions. ... It stands about twenty feet above the surface of the water, entirely cut out of the perpendicular, rocky side of the mountain and in complete preservation. . . .

Having, as I supposed, seen all the antiquity of Ebsambal, I was about to ascend the sandy side of the mountain by the same way I had descended, when, having luckily turned more to the southward, I fell in with what is yet visible of four immense colossal statues cut out of the rock, at a distance of about two hundred yards from the temple, they stand in a deep recess, excavated in the mountain, but it is deeply to be regretted, that they are now almost entirely buried beneath the sands, which are blown down here in torrents. The entire head, and part of the breasts and arms of one of the statues are yet above the surface; and of the one next to it scarcely any part is visible, the head being broken off, and the body covered with sand to above the shoulders; of the other two, the bonnets only appear.

It is difficult to determine whether these statues are in a sitting or standing posture; their backs adhere to a portion of the rock, which projects from the main body, and which may represent part of a chair, or it may be merely a column for support. They do not front the river, like those of the temple just described, but are turned with their faces due north, towards the more fertile lands of Egypt, so that the line on which they stand forms an angle with the course of the stream. The head which is above the surface has a most expressive, youthful countenance, approaching nearer to the Grecian model of beauty, than of any one Egyptian figure I have seen. . . .

The statue measures seven yards across the shoulders, and cannot, therefore, if in upright posture, be less than from 65 to 70 feet in height; the ear is one yard and four inches in length. On the wall of the rock in the centre of the four statues, is the figure of a hawk-headed Osiris, surmounted by a globe; beneath which, I suspect, could it be cleared away, a vast temple would be discovered. . . .

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