May 13, 2012

Raising the water from the Nile River | Aswan Egypt

Raising the Water from the Nile, 1844
Edward Lane

The most important of the occupations which employ the modern Egyptians, and that which engages all but a very small proportion of them, is agriculture.

Nile Rising
The great proportion of the cultivable soil is fertilised by the natural annual inundation; but the fields in the vicinity of the river and of the large canals, and some others, in which pits are dug for water, are irrigated by means of machines of different kinds.

The most common of these machines is the shadoof, which consists of two posts or pillars of wood, or of mud or cane or rushes, about five feet in height, and less than three feet apart, with a horizontal piece of wood extending from top to top, to which is suspended a slender lever, formed by a branch of a tree, having at one end a weight chiefly composed of mud, and at the other, suspended to two long palm-sticks, a vessel in the form of a bowl, made of basket- work, or of a hoop and a piece of woollen stuff or leather; with this vessel the water is thrown up to the height of about eight feet, into a trough hollowed out for its reception.

In the southern parts of Upper Egypt, four or five shadoofs are required, when the river is at its lowest, to raise the water to the level of the fields. There are many shadoofs with two levers, etc, which are worked by two men. The operation is extremely laborious.

Another machine much used for the same purpose, and almost the only one employed for the irrigation of gardens in Egypt, is the sakiyeh. This mainly consists of a vertical wheel, which raises the water in earthen pots attached by cords, and forming a continuous series; a second vertical wheel, fixed to the same axis, with cogs; and a large, horizontal cogged wheel, which, being turned by a pair of cows or bulls, or a single beast, puts in motion the two former wheels and the pots. The construction of this machine is of a very rude kind; and its motion produces a disagreeable creaking noise.

Armant is less than ten miles from Luxor, and even by 1873 Murray’s Guide dismissed its ruins as “hardly worth a visit, except for the purpose of seeing what is supposed to be an authentic portrait of Cleopatra.” Yet the remains are in themselves a record of past importance, and Young was fascinated by the carvings.

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