, pub-5063766797865882, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 South by Train, 1873 | Arrangements for Traveling up the Nile ~ Ancient Egypt Facts

May 8, 2012

South by Train, 1873 | Arrangements for Traveling up the Nile

South by Train, 1873
Gabriel Charmes

Still I did not follow the Nile in order to go to Syout; I took the railway. The journey lasts twelve hours across a country singularly spoilt by the manufactories of Ismail Pacha and his sugar-cane plantations. On leaving Cairo at about eight in the morning, you enjoy the spectacle, always marvellous, of the first hours of the day in Egypt.

On the right, the Lybian desert, guarded by the great Pyramids, extends beyond eye-reach its gilded undulations; in the centre, the green valley of the Nile awakes full of freshness and grace; further, the centre still, the Nile, dyed blue by the reflexion of the sky, unrolls far away its majestic curves gay with vivid colours.

But what is particularly admirable, what partakes of the dream and fairyland, it is the second line of the desert on the left, on the side of the rising sun. Every one of the softest shades of rose, blue, and violet shines over a range of hills united by slight depressions of ground; the colours pale away little by little on the slopes of these hills which lower gradually as far as the Nile, wrapping it there in great white sheets.

Unfortunately, when the last Pyramids of Sakkarah are passed, and you arrive in Central Egypt, the picture changes completely. The valley of the Nile enlarges so much, that the desert on each side appears no longer like a light border on a blue sky. The plain is covered with fields of sugar-cane that resemble most deceptively fields of maize. Sometimes the crop is gathered, and then nothing more is distinguished than a blackish earth which the fellahs are turning over and over again.

Immense factories, soiled with dust, rise here and there. These factories, the machinery of which comes from the workshops of the firm of Cail, are, it seems, most complete as sugar factories. But they, nevertheless, spoil the landscape in a manner most disagreeable. Nothing is more ugly than their thick columns of smoke rising in the transparent atmosphere of Egypt. The light cannot play on these opaque masses, that produce the effect of great blots on a brilliant picture. But then, if this part of Egypt is the least beautiful of all, it is in return the richest; it is there where are the dai'ras of Ismail Pacha; therefore everything there is wonderfully organized for the cultivation: canals run in every direction; the railway crosses flood gates of architectural pretension, but of a frightful Gothic style, whose construction has cost millions of francs, without mentioning the forced labour.

A little agricultural railway serves to convey the sugar-cane. To see the smoke and dust rising everywhere in the sky, one would fancy, he was no longer in Egypt, but in Flanders. At last it comes to an end; at Theneh, Minieh, Manfalout, etc., one sees Egypt again Upper Egypt still more beautiful than the Delta. One runs along for hours a canal that irrigates all the country; it is filled with bathers clad solely in the sun-burnt bronzing that covers them; they are there by hundreds swarming in the water like frogs, and the passage of the train troubles in no way a modesty so little disposed to be scared. In fact, they do not appear naked to European eyes, so does their colour clothe them; they seem like figures of the kind that decorate chimney timepieces; their flesh looks like bronze, and if you did not see them move, you would take them really for statues beautifully sculptured.


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