May 19, 2012

Abu Sir Map and the Great Rock

The Great Rock at Abu Sir, 1836
Lord Lindsay

. . . our sailors, full of fun and merriment, punted and rowed us up the river, as far as the boat could ascend, and then, landing on the western bank, we proceeded on foot, alternately over sand and rock, to Abu Sir, a lofty cliff that overhangs the rapids, conspicuous from afar, and covered, we found, with the names of former travellers.

Abu Sir Map

Climbing the rock, the Nile lay before us like the map of an Archipelago so it seemed to me at first, till the eye presently discovered the main stream of the river winding between myriads of little black islets, tufted with Egyptian and Abu Sir acacia, and glistening in the sunbeams like those at Philas themselves washed by hundreds of collateral streamlets that glitter, foam and roar in emulation of their parent. Ten miles in length, and two in breadth, are these rapids. It is the lower cataract (that above Assuan) on an infinitely larger scale, but the impressions excited are widely different; there you feel an interest in every rock as you pass it, you admire their savage grandeur individually, and the rapids the while are dashing away under your feet there you thread a labyrinth here you look down on one, quite bewildered.... Abu Sir

Mortuary Temple and Abu Sir
The prospect, miles to the eastward, is bounded by the prolongation of Gobel Mokkatam to the south, by the mountains of Dongola it was something to have seen them! It was a sad thought that I had reached the limits of my southern excursion; sad, though now every step I took would bring me nearer to my happy family homes in England and Scotland! From one of the western crags I had a partial view over the Libyan desert a dreary sight. While William carved our names in the rock, where many a future traveller to Abu Sir will read them in association with those of Belzoni, Burckhardt, Irby and Mangles, etc. I enjoyed half an hour s delightful rumination, on a most commodious natural seat that overhangs the Nile beyond the rock Abousir, and on which before departure, I cut my cipher by way of claiming it as my own. . . . Nowhere else have we attempted to immortalize ourselves in this way.

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