May 9, 2012

So Much to See in Luxor,1848 | Walking Through Egypt

Communications with the People, 1814
Henry Light

Egyptian pepole
In some villages I was able to assist the sick by medicines and advice; in others, I added to the catalogue of charms by writing Arabic sentences in praise of God and the Prophet at the request of the villagers. These placed in the turban or hung around the neck, were to preserve the wearer from the evil angel. In one village, called Abou Gaziz, I was requested by a party of women to hold my drawn sword on the ground, while they went through the ceremony of jumping across it, with various motions, to correct the well known Eastern curse of barrenness, and was rewarded by blessings and offerings of durra cake.

So Much to See, 1848
Harriet Martineau
And when on board, there was so much to be seen on the ordinary banks that I was rarely in the cabin. Before breakfast, I was walking on deck. After breakfast,
I was sewing, reading, or writing, or idling on deck, under the shade of the awning. After dinner, we all came out eagerly, to enjoy the last hour of sunshine, and the glories of the sunset and the after-glow, and the rising of the moon and constellations. And sorry was I every night when it was ten o’clock, and I must go under a lower roof than that of the dazzling heavens. All these hours of our first days had their ample amusement from what we saw on the banks alone, till we could penetrate further. . . . There was the pretty sight of the preparation of the drying banks for the new crop; the hoeing with the short, heavy antique hoe. And the harrow, drawn by a camel, would appear on the ridge of the bank. . . .

Then, there were the endless manoeuvres of innumerable birds, about the islets and rocks: and buffalo, here and there, swimming from bank to bank, and finding it at last, no easy matter to gain the land. Then, there was the ferryboat, with its ragged sail, and its motley freight of turbaned men, veiled women, naked children, brown sheep, frightened asses, and imperturbable buffalo. Then, there the long palisades of sugar canes edging the banks; or the steep slopes, all soft and bright with the springing wheat or the bristling lupins. Then, there were the villages, with their somewhat pyramidal houses, their clouds of pigeons, and their shelter of palms: or, here and there, a town, with its minarets rising out of its cincture of acacia.

And it was not long before we found our sight sharpened to discern holes in the rocks, far or near, holes so squared at the entrance as to hint of sculpture or painting within. And, then, as the evening drew on, there was the sinking of the sun, and the coming out of the colours which had been discharged by the glare in the middle of the day. The vast and dreary and hazy Arabian desert became yellow, melting into the purple hills; the muddy waters took a lilac hue; and the shadows of the sharp-cut banks were as blue as the central sky. As for the moon, we could, for the first time in our lives, see her the first night; the slenderest thread of cup-like form, visible for a few minutes after sunset; the old moon being so clearly marked as to be seen by itself after the radiant rim was gone. I have seen it behind a palm, or resting on the ridge of a mountain like a copper ball. And when the fuller moon came up from the east, and I, forgetting the clearness of the sky, have been struck by the sudden dimness, and have looked up to watch her passing behind a cloud, it was delicious to see, instead of any cloud, the fronds of the palm waving upon her disk.


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