May 15, 2012

Into Nubia, 1897 | Walking Through Egypt

Into Nubia, 1897
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Between these two huge and barren expanses [of desert], Nubia writhes like a green sand-worm along the course of the river. Here and there it disappears altogether, and the Nile runs between black and sun-cracked hills, with the orange drift-sand lying like glaciers in their valley?. Everywhere one sees traces of vanished races and submerged civilisations. Grotesque graves dot the hills or stand up against the skyline, pyramidal graves, tumulus graves, rock graves, everywhere graves. And, occasionally, as the boats round a rocky point, one sees a deserted city up above, houses, walls, battlements, with the sun shifting through the empty window squares. Sometimes you learn that it has been Roman, sometimes Egyptian; sometimes all record of its name or origin has been absolutely lost. There they stand, these grim and silent cities, and up on the hills you can see the graves of their people, like the port-holes of a man-of-war. It is through this weird, dead country that the tourists smoke and gossip and flirt as they pass up to the Egyptian frontier.

Passing through the cataract before the dams were built could be dangerous depending on the season of the year and the flow of the river. Travelers’ boats were taken through the rushing waters by the age-old skills of experienced local teams. Isambard Kingdom Brunei was one of Britain’s greatest engineers and ship builders, so his appreciative assessment of the management of taking boats up the cataract above Aswan is of very special significance.


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