May 5, 2012

The Wonders of the Egypt , c. 1200

The Wonders of the Country, c. 1200
Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi


Of all the countries, that I ever visited myself, or ever acquired any knowledge of from the researches of others, there are none that can compare with Egypt, in regard to the immense number of ancient monuments, that it contains. Among the wonders of that country are the Pyramids, which have attracted the attention of many authors, whose works are filled with descriptions and dimensions of these buildings. There are many of them; and they are all situated upon the same side of the river as Gizeh, upon the same line with the ancient capital of Egypt, and at the distance of about two days’ journey from it. There are also others at Bousir. They vary much in size. Some are constructed with earth and bricks, but the greater number of them are built of stone, in a form exactly pyramidal, and with a smooth and even surface; others are constructed in steps or degrees. There were formally at Gizeh a considerable number of small pyramids, which were destroyed, in the time of Salah-eddin Youssef... by Karakousch, an emir in that prince’s army. He had the superintendence of all the buildings in the capital, and constructed the stone wall, which surrounds Fostat, Cairo, and all the ground between these two places, and the Citadel upon the Mokatam. He also built the Citadel itself, and the two wells, which exist to this day, and are considered among the wonders of Egypt; a staircase of nearly three hundred steps leads to the bottom of them. ... In proceeding to describe the Three Pyramids, which are distinguished above all the others by their immense and wonderful size, it is to be remarked, that they are situated in a line at Gizeh, in front of Fostat, and at short distances from each other, facing the east. Two of the three are of enormous magnitude, and are built of white stone. These are nearer together than the Third; which is one quarter less than the others, and is constructed of red speckled granite so extremely hard that it is worked with great difficulty. The monument appears small when compared with the others; but when viewed by itself, and at a litde distance, it is truly magnificent.

The form of the Pyramids, and their extreme solidity, are indeed well worthy of admiration; and have enabled them to resist the effects of time for so many ages, that it might almost be considered that it is Time, that experiences the eternal duration of these extraordinary edifices; and the more they are considered, the more convincing is the proof, that the most consummate genius and skill were employed in their construction.

Travelers constantly pondered how the Pyramids could have been constructed, and even today they remain an engineering wonder and mystery. The Greek historian Herodotus recorded the account given to him of the building of the Great Pyramid.

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