June 5, 2012

Creatures of the Desert, c. 450 B.C. | Egyptian Deserts

Creatures of the Desert, c. 450 B.C.
Herodotus

Creatures of the Desert
There is a place in Arabia . . . (the desert to the east of the Delta) . . . where 1 went to try and get information about the flying snakes. On my arrival I saw their skeletons in incalculable numbers; they were piled in heaps, some of which were big, others smaller, others the most numerous smaller still. The place where these bones lie is a narrow mountain pass leading to a broad plain which joins on to the plain of Egypt, and it is said that when the winged snakes fly to Egypt from Arabia in the spring, the ibises meet them at the entrance to the pass and do not let them get through, but kill them. According to the Arabians, this service is the reason for the great reverence with which the ibis is regarded in Egypt, and the Egyptians themselves admit the truth of what they say. The ibis is jet-black all over; it has legs like a crane’s, a markedly hooked beak, and is about the size of a landrail. That, at any rate, is what the black ibis is like the kind namely that attacks the winged snakes. . . .

Before the Suez Canal was built many travelers passed overland through Egypt on their way to or from India. Some sailed to Suez and crossed the desert to Cairo; others disembarked at Qusayr (also spelled Kosseir) on the Red Sea and traveled across the Eastern Desert to the Nile.

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