Day 01 : Overnight Camping in White Desert or black desert & Dinner Under the Stars:

Egypt Desert Safari
Egypt Desert Safari

You will depart from Cairo at 07:00 for the 4-hour drive to the El Bahariya Oasis. Here you will change vehicle and jump on a 4X4 jeep for a thrilling ride along rugged roads to the incredible White Desert with a stop at the cold spring for you to swim in cold sulfuric water. This unique landscape is set in a depression, and its intriguing aspect is the result of the chalk rock formations caused by sandstorms and the chalk deposits that settle on the ground.
You will also visit the Black desert where the sand is caked with a gold and black crust. Nestled between the two deserts, the start of Crystal Mountain offers yet more wondrous sights and is best known for its quartz crystals. Arriving at camp you will find spacious well-ventilated dome tents equipped with mattresses, blankets, sleeping bags and bed sheets. Enjoy a delicious dinner before retiring for a night beneath the stars.
Day 02: El Bahariya Oasis, Magic lake and the English Mountain: After a delightful breakfast in the White Desert or black desert you will return to El Bahariya Oasis for a tour of the city that has been home to Bedouin tribes for centuries. Visit the English mountain to have a satellite overview of the Magic lake and Bawiti town of the capital of Bahariya oasis with all Bahariya oasis features atop the English mountain, You will have the services of an expert Egyptologist guide to answer all of your questions and

Egypt Desert Safari
Desert Egypt Safari

Address: 3-Mohamed Abdul Aziz St.-Orouba-Haram,Giza,Egypt.
Tel.Fax.: (+202) 37562167 Mobile :(+2) 0120142155 – 01002759668 – 01282500637
Bahariya oasis 2days/1 night
(Black &white desert- Crystal mountain)
Private cars,Private guide&Chef and Private camp
2days 4X4WD sightseeing tours & overnight camp Package All included door to door Summer(June-September) Winter(October-May) 2-5 people Package 250$ USD per person 275$ USD per person 6-10 people Package 200$ USD per person 220$ USD per person 11-15 people Package 160$ USD per person 180$ USD per person
Note: –
 For Single accommodation Please add 60% single supplement per person.
 For Kids less than 2 years free of charge.
 For kids less than 12 years half price.
Above Rate Including: –
 Program includes:
 Transfers from Cairo to/from Bahariya
 All transfers in Bahariya, during safari.
 All your tours and excursions are in Jeeps.
 Camping facilities:
 Transfers through 4X4 Toyota Land Cruisers.
 Single and double dome-shaped tents.
 Tents have mattresses and pillows.
 3 bottles of Water during safari + 1 soft drink.
 Special meals for vegetarians are served upon request (Should be requested
 prior to arrival)
 All food preparation and cooking is done by the camp staff.
 Expert guides for the desert safari.
 include entrance fees to tourist sites or nature reserves
 All Tax and permissions.
Above rate excluding: –
 International flight.
 Egypt entry Visa.
 Tips.
Address: 3-Mohamed Abdul Aziz St.-Orouba-Haram,Giza,Egypt.
Tel.Fax.: (+202) 37562167 Mobile :(+2) 0120142155 – 01002759668 – 01282500637
Itinerary: 2days guided tour/1night desert camp

Desert Egypt Safari
Desert Egypt Safari

Address: 3-Mohamed Abdul Aziz St.-Orouba-Haram,Giza,Egypt.
Tel.Fax.: (+202) 37562167 Mobile :(+2) 0120142155 – 01002759668 – 01282500637
provide insights in to the area’s intriguing history. After lunch there may also be a chance to enjoy a bathe in a thermal spring before your transfer back to Cairo for your hotel drop-off or at Cairo airport for your onward travels.
Time table (hourly itinerary)
Day 1 (Cairo-Bahariyya-White desert):
 After breakfast at your hotel.
 7:00 an early start to Bahariya Oasis (the desert) ( 365 K.M) 4 to 5 hours drive.
 12:00 Arrive Bahariya Oasis, Bawiti Center of Bahariya.
 12:00 to 13:00 Continue the trip with our Jeep Safari to Al-Haiz.
 13:00 to 14:00 Lunch in El-Haiz.
 14:00 to 17:00 Tour the black desert, the crystal mountain, the hot springs, the natural carvings like tens, and the malachite valley, and much more.
 17:00 Arrive at the white desert to see the sunset with the mushroom formations.
 17:00 to 19:00 Enjoy the wonderful atmosphere waiting for your dinner to be prepared by the Bedouin guys.
 19:00 Barbecue dinner under the stars.
 You will get to taste the Bedouin tea.
 Overnight camp (We prepare a big tent, with pillows and mattress). We also provide sleeping bags & American tents.

Desert Egypt Safari
Desert Egypt Safari

Day 2 (White desert-Bawiti-Cairo):
 After breakfast in the white desert, 8:00 Transfer back to Bawiti (Bahariya city center).
 10:45 start our tour to see the English mountain and satellite view of Magic Lake.
 11:30 Lunch at Bahariya oasis.
 12:00 to 17:00 Transfer back to Cairo.
 Drop off at your hotel/location in Cairo. ((( Important Note:)))__________________  You will be traveling from Cairo to Bahariya in Toyota avanza. 
Address: 3-Mohamed Abdul Aziz St.-Orouba-Haram,Giza,Egypt.
Tel.Fax.: (+202) 37562167 Mobile :(+2) 0120142155 – 01002759668 – 01282500637
 Then will substitute with Toyota Land Cruiser in Bahariya to the white desert and back to Bahariya So, If any person of your group is too long and will fit hardly in these cars, please let me know to arrange bigger cars. Remember the following:  Pack a small backpack with necessary items the morning before you leave your accommodation (i.e.: change of clothes, toothbrush, etc.).
 I recommend wearing loose and comfortable clothes. As for shoes try wear wearing a pair of flip flops or flat sandals. The sand gets in everywhere.
 Don’t forget your scarf, hat and sunglasses.
 Bring an external battery for charging electronics and extra batteries for cameras! You won’t have access to electricity the night you sleep in the desert.  If you’re going between September and Feb, nights are cold, so dress accordantly by bringing an extra layer to bundle up.
 Do not eat anything right before dune bashing.
 Try to secure the front passenger seat for a magical view of the dunes.
 This is a choice, but tipping your driver is always a good idea if they did a good job.
 I do not recommend bringing your nice and expensive camera to the desert,
 Unless you have a good place to secure it.
 Sand gets into everything.
 A phone such as the Samsung Note 5 or Galaxy Edge 7 are better options.
 Because of the heat stay away from heavy make-up.
 Using some sunscreen before your departure is always a good idea.
Please bring the following items with you (Tips for packing) passport or ID, comfortable clothing, swim suit, sun protection, camera and/or video camera, wet wipes, toilet paper, snacks,
Address: 3-Mohamed Abdul Aziz St.-Orouba-Haram,Giza,Egypt.
Tel.Fax.: (+202) 37562167 Mobile :(+2) 0120142155 – 01002759668 – 01282500637
Medicine and a spirit of adventure. 1-2 loose shirts. At least one long sleeve is a good choice. 1-2 pairs of trousers. 1 sarong. 1 scarf. Sunglasses. Socks and underwear. 1 sweater/jumper. 1 insulated jacket. 1 hat. 1 pair of mittens.
-ficial new regulations:19) hotels governmental of-Corona virus (Covid
For your safety and because of Covid-19 worldwide situation
Egyptian government declared new special permits to be issued from our side as travel agency.
For some hotel types( AirBnb, apartments, hostels, small hotels or big hotels) .
And tourist group type and size (individuals, small groups, incentives, freelancers).
-So, please let us know:
i. Hotel name and address?
ii. Group type and size?
iii. If you are a part of bigger group?
iv. Where have you been before our tour and where are you going after?
v. Any special information about your group?
Please accept our apology for inconvenience,
But these permits are very important and tour might be canceled if not issued. ((((Please don’t hesitate to ask any question you may have before trip starts))))
PAYMENT & CANCELLATION POLICY DOWN PAYMENT direct wire transfer to our company bank account (Preferred):
Address: 3-Mohamed Abdul Aziz St.-Orouba-Haram,Giza,Egypt.
Tel.Fax.: (+202) 37562167 Mobile :(+2) 0120142155 – 01002759668 – 01282500637
Also, we Offer Down Payment System for more facilities as you can pay part (25%-50%)online and the rest at Pick up time without any problem and refundable on Cancellation as our cancellation policy roles. If you need to make a down payment and the rest during the trip is also available
Credit Card PAYMENT:
Credit Card payments are collected by acting as an authorized agent of Nile Valley General Supplies Subsequently will appear as*TOUR BOOKING on your credit card statement. The domain where you enter and process your payment is owned and operated by payments are due upon receipt. If payment is not received or payment method is declined or charged back then the buyer forfeits the ownership of any items purchased and If no payment is received or if a chargeback is made by the buyer after the tour date then our third-party has the right to dispute it.
Optional tours:
Any Optional tours such as mummies room at the Egyptian museum entry inside any of the pyramids, Abu Simbel, boat trip. Tutankhamen tomb is not included unless otherwise stated and added on during the booking process and if the customer decided to do any of those optional visits then the required tickets will be paid by the Customer.

White desert safari
White desert safari

Daily Trips -over day trips or overnight trips by Cars
Free cancellation up to 24 hours before the activity starts
Free cancellation up to 24 hours before the activity starts
Trips by Flight
The cancellation fees on all domestic flights in case you book a tour and you would like to cancel it at any time before starting your tours. The cancellation fees of the domestic flights are subject to the airline’s cancellation policy which changes from case to another. The rest of the paid amount will be refunded after deducting the airline tickets cancellations fees.
Nile cruise
Address: 3-Mohamed Abdul Aziz St.-Orouba-Haram,Giza,Egypt.
Tel.Fax.: (+202) 37562167 Mobile :(+2) 0120142155 – 01002759668 – 01282500637
Free cancellation up to 8 days before the activity starts Between 7 and 4 days before your arrival date, 75% of the entire tour price will be deducted.
A refund will normally be made to the same card account and using the same method as the original payment. No refunds are possible for No-Show.
Tips: Is a customary attitude for expressing one’s satisfaction of good services rendered to him by staff on duty with him. We advise if you are willing to offer it, this would be great – if not, you are not obliged to do it
If you have a complaint while you are in Egypt. Please notify the company (Nile Valley ) immediately, as most problems can be solved on the spot, if you feel your problem has still not been resolved please call the chairman of the company, but if after you return home you are still not satisfied you must e-mail us at or contact us via WhatsApp +20 1201421551
Acceptance Of The Agreement:
The contract constituted by the Company’s acceptance of the Client’s booking subject to these Booking Conditions shall constitute the entire agreement between the Client and the Company, so the payment of a deposit or final payment by bank transfer or credit card indicates that tour participants have read and accepted all terms and conditions and agree to abide by them.
Unless otherwise stated, generally it is based on two persons sharing a room (twin sharing). Room for the single occupant is available with an additional supplementary rate. Hotels and lodges are named as an indication/guide of category and rooms may be reserved at similar establishments. Published prices are based on tariff and other costs prevailing at the time of printing, and are subject to change without notice.
Domestic flights:
Address: 3-Mohamed Abdul Aziz St.-Orouba-Haram,Giza,Egypt.
Tel.Fax.: (+202) 37562167 Mobile :(+2) 0120142155 – 01002759668 – 01282500637
The programs quoted on the average price of flights with approximate timings: Hurghada-Cairo at 05:30 arrive in Cairo at 06:30 Cairo – Luxor At 05:30 am arriving at 06:30 Aswan – Cairo at 22:00 at 23:30 & Vice versa. In case you need to adjust your flight timings, it will be subject to an extra supplement. Luxor/Sharm (most time, it is connected by flight via Cairo Airport) International flights Nile Valley an assist you with international flights if needed. Business-class:: If the only available flight option is business class, there will be extra supplement will be applied above the announced Price on web site
We act only as an agent for the participants in regard to travel, whether by railroad, boat, aircraft, or any other convenience and assumes no liability for injury, illness, damage, loss accident, delay or irregularity to person or property resulting directly or indirectly from any of the following causes; -Weather, acts of God, force major, acts of government or other authorities, wars, civil disturbances, labour disputes, riots, theft, mechanical breakdowns, quarantines or acts of default, delays, cancellations or changes of any hotel, carrier, or restaurant. No responsibility is accepted for any additional expenses.
Special Requests:
If the Client has any special requests, he should inform the Company at the time of booking. The Company and its suppliers will try to meet such requests but, as these do not form part of the Contract, the Company does not guarantee to do so, including for pre-bookable seats. If the Company confirms that a special request has been noted or passed to the supplier or refers to it on the confirmation invoice or elsewhere, this is not a guarantee to meet it. The Client will not be specifically notified if a special request cannot be met. The Company does not accept bookings which are conditional on the fulfilment of any special request.
Children Policy:
Policy- For Packages + Nile Cruises + Hotels
0 – 1 years old Free of Charge
2 – 5 25% of total tour cost
6 – 11.99 50% of total tour cost
+12 Are considered adults
Address: 3-Mohamed Abdul Aziz St.-Orouba-Haram,Giza,Egypt.
Tel.Fax.: (+202) 37562167 Mobile :(+2) 0120142155 – 01002759668 – 01282500637
If your tour package includes flights, an extra supplement for your child may apply.
2nd Policy – For sightseeing tours & shore excursions
0 – 5 free of charge
6 – 11 50 % of total tour cost
12+ are considered adults
If your sightseeing tours include domestic flights, an extra supplement for your child may apply. Our company Bank details
Company registration No.
Company TAX ID
Company address
25 Sayed Saleh St.-Ouroba-Omranyia-Giza
Postal Address
Bank Name
Banque Misr
Bank main branch address 153 Mohamed Farid St. banquemisr tower- Down Town Cairo
Bank main branch postal address
Company bank Account Name
Nile Valley General Supplies
BMISEGCX140 $ USD Account 1660120000000570 IBAN EG550002016601660120000000570 € Euro Account 1660130000000239 IBAN EG060002016601660130000000239 EGP Pound Account 1660001000004670 IBAN EG520002016601660001000004670
Qasr El Ahram
Bank branch Address
171-EL Haram St.
Bank branch city
Branch P. Box
Bank Country
Address: 3-Mohamed Abdul Aziz St.-Orouba-Haram,Giza,Egypt.
Tel.Fax.: (+202) 37562167 Mobile :(+2) 0120142155 – 01002759668 – 01282500637
Remember, we are very happy to answer any question you may have before trip starts.
Mohamed Marghany
Tour Operator
Company registration No.69292
Company TAX ID336938314
3Mohamed Abdul Aziz st-Orouba- haram
FAX: +20237562167
+201282500637 +201002759668
Mobile: +201201421551 +201003580083

Early morning pickup from Cairo or Giza hotel, Our expert guide who will join you for the 2 days trip will take you in an AC van and drive for 95 Km to El Fayoum.

start you visit exploring The famous Water Wheels which providing the oasis with irrigation water since the Ptolemaic era.

Then drive to Lake Qaroun that hosting several kinds of birds. It is also belived to be one of the oldest natural lakes world wide.

Then continue onto Wadi Al Rian or Al Rayan Valley is 42m below sea level, it consists of 2 lakes connected by the only existing waterfalls in the country. Move later to an ancient city that built by Emnemohoteb III during the third pharaonic dynasty and named Medinet Madi.

End your first day at Wadi Hitan or (The Valley of Whales) where you will spend your night camping Egypt desert safari.

Meal plan: Lunch, Dinner

Day 02: Wadi Hitan Protectorate / Back To Cairo

The second day activity starts after breakfast, you will explore the national park of Wadi Hitan, it exists within the Protectorate ofWadi El Rayan and it was named as a world Heritage Site aged 40 million years due to old whale skeletons discover there. Pass by the Mudawara Mountain on your way to Qasr Qaroun which is 55 km North West of Fayoum City. On the sight of Quaron Palace there is a well-preserved temple and remains of the Graeco Roman City. End you 2 days tour at Karanis ruins That consists of number of monuments goes back to the Roman, Coptic and Early Islamic ages. Drive back to your Cairo or Giza hotel.

Meal plan: Breakfast

White desert safari
White desert safari

Price includes:

  • Hotel pickup and drop off service

  • All transfers by modern private AC van

  • Entrance fees as per itinerary

  • Expert personal Egyptologist guide

  • A Bottel of mineral Water per day

  • Meals as per the tour itinerary

  • All taxes & service charge

Price excludes:

  • Any extras not mentioned

  • Personal expenses


  • Trip runs every day.

  • Prices are quoted in US$ per person.

  • Tour is operated privately.

  • Discounts are available for groups and children.

Price Per Person:

  • Single : 395 Usd

  • From 2 to 3 pax: 245 Usd per person

  • From 4 to 10 pax : 199 Usd per person

    ~xTravels in the
    Upper Egyptian Deserts
    Crown 8vo, ios. 6d. net.
    Illustrated. Second Impression.
    Demy 8vo, 7s. 6d. net.
    Chapters on Ancient Egyptian History
    and Archaeology.
    With Illustrations.
    Travels in the
    Upper Egyptian Deserts
    William Blackwood and Sons
    Edinburgh and London
    ETC., ETC., ETC.,
    Some of the chapters in this book have appeared
    as articles in ‘ Blackwood’s Magazine.’ The various
    journeys here recorded have been made in
    the ordinary course of the work of inspection,
    and have been reported in the usual official
    manner. These less technical descriptions have
    been written in leisure hours, and the illustrations
    here published are selected from a large number
    of photographs and drawings rapidly made by the
    wayside. The journey to Wady Hammamat and
    Kossair was made in the company of three
    painters, Mr Charles Whymper, Mr Walter
    Tyndale, and Mr Erskine Nicol, to whom my
    thanks are due, as also they are to Mr John
    Wells, with whom I travelled to Gebel Dukhan.
    I am indebted to Prof. Sayce and Mr Seymour
    de Ricci for several notes on the Greek inscripviii
    tions at Wady Abad. On some of the journeys
    I was accompanied by Mahmoud Effendi Rushdy
    and Mahmoud Effendi Muhammed, Inspectors of
    the Department of Antiquities, whose assistance
    was valuable.
    Upper Egypt.
    VI. THE TEMPLE OF WADY ABAD . . . .141
    the head of wady gatar . . Frontispiece
    CAMEL ……. 10
    IN THE WADY ABAD . . .16
    ONE OF THE CAMELS ….. 20
    AND WADY FOWAKHIEH . . . .40
    FOWAKHIEH …… 54
    xii Illustrations.
    EAST …….
    CAMELS …… 90
    THE PLAIN ……
    EL GHAITEH …… 96
    ……. 104
    WAS TAKEN . • • • •
    Illustrations. xiii
    THE CAUSEWAY . . . . .114
    ARE SEEN ON THE RIGHT . . . .120
    WERE PLASTERED . . . . .128
    WERE FIXED…… 132
    xiv Illustrations.
    ARCHITRAVE …… 146
    OF NEGROES …… 146
    ENCLOSURE . . . . . .150
    OF WADY ABAD ….. 150

    TEMPLE OF WADY ABAD . . . .154
    abAd……. 166
    ASWAN …… 184
    ELEPHANTINE ROAD . . . . ,184
    Travels in the
    Upper Egyptian Deserts,
    I know a young man who declares that after
    reading a certain explorer’s description of a
    journey across the burning Sahara, he found to
    his amazement that his nose was covered with
    freckles. The reader will perhaps remember how,
    on some rainy day in his childhood, he has sat
    over the fire and has read sea-stories and dreamed
    sea -dreams until his lips, he will swear, have
    tasted salt. Alas, one’s little agility in the art
    of narration is wholly inadequate for the production,
    at this time of life, of any such phenomena
    upon the gentle skins of those who chance to read
    these pages. Were one a master-maker of literature,
    one might herewith lead the imaginative so
    2 Travels in Egypt desert safari .
    straight into the boisterous breezes of Egypt, one
    might hold them so entranced in the sunlight
    which streams over the desert, that they would
    feel, wherever they might be seated, the tingling
    glow of the sun and the wind upon their cheeks,
    and would hold their hands to their eyes as a
    shelter from the glare. The walls of their rooms
    would fall flat as those of Jericho ; and outside
    they would see the advancing host of the invaders
    —the sunshine, the north wind, the scudding
    clouds, the circling eagles, the glistening sand,
    the blue shadows, and the rampant rocks. And
    the night closing over the sack of their city, they
    would see the moonlight, the brilliant stars, the
    fluttering bats, the solemn owls ; and they would
    hear the wailing of the hyaenas and the barking
    of the dogs in the distant camps. If one only
    possessed the ability, one might weave such a
    magic carpet for those who knew how to ride
    upon it, that, deserting the fallen Jericho of their
    habitation, they would fly to the land of the invaders
    which they had seen, and there they would
    be kept as spell-bound and dazzled by the eyes
    of the wilderness as ever a child was dazzled by a
    tale of the sea.
    But with this ability lacking it is very doubtful
    whether the reader will be able to appreciate the
    The Eastern Desert and its Interests. 3
    writers meaning ; and, without the carpet, it is
    a far cry from Upper Egypt, where these words
    are written, to the fireside where they are read.
    Nevertheless I will venture to give an account
    here of some journeys made in the Upper Egyptian
    desert, in the hope rather of arousing interest in a
    fascinating country than of placing on record much
    information of value to science ; although the
    reader interested in Egyptian archaeology will find
    some new material upon which to speculate.
    The Upper Egyptian desert is a country known
    only to a very few. The resident, as well as the
    visitor, in Egypt raises his eyes from the fertile
    valley of the Nile to the bare hills, and lowers
    them once more with the feeling that he has
    looked at the wall of the garden, the boundary
    of the land. There is, however, very much to
    be seen and studied behind this wall ; and those
    who penetrate into the solitudes beyond will
    assuredly find themselves in a world of new
    colours, new forms, and new interests. In the
    old days precious metal was sought here, ornamental
    stone was quarried, trade – routes passed
    through to the Red Sea, and the soldiery of
    Egypt, and later of Rome, marched from station
    to station amidst its hills. The desert as one
    sees it now is, so to speak, peopled with the
    4 Travels in Egypt desert safari
    ghosts of the Old World ; and on hidden hillslopes
    or in obscure valleys one meets with the
    remains of ancient settlements scattered through
    the length and breadth of the country.
    The number of persons who have had the energy
    to climb the garden wall and to wander into this
    great wilderness is so small that one might count
    the names upon the fingers. Lepsius, the German
    Egyptologist, passed over some of the routes
    on which antiquities were to be met with
    GoleniscbefF, the Russian Egyptologist, checked
    some of his results ; Schweinfurth, the German
    explorer, penetrated to many of the unknown
    localities, and mapped a great part of the country;
    Bellefonds Bey, the Director -General of Public
    Works in Egypt under Muhammed Aly, made a
    survey of the mineral belt lying between the river
    and the Red Sea ; and during the last score of
    years various prospectors and miners have visited
    certain points of interest to them. The Government
    Survey Department is now engaged in
    mapping this Eastern Desert, and two most
    valuable reports have already been published
    while for a few years there existed a Mines
    Department, whose director, Mr John Wells,
    made himself acquainted with many of the routes
    and most of the mining centres. Thus, most of
    The Eastern Desert and its Interests. 5
    the journeys here to be recorded have not been
    made over absolutely new ground ; though, except
    for the expert reports of the Survey Department
    and some papers by Schweinfurth, it would be
    a difficult matter to unearth any literature on
    the subject. In describing these journeys, however,
    one is often enabled to indulge in the not
    unpleasing recollection that one is writing of
    places which no other European eyes have seen.
    Those who have travelled in Egypt will not
    need to be told how the Nile, flowing down from
    the Sudan to the distant sea, pushes its silvery
    way through the wide desert : now passing
    between the granite hills, now through regions
    of sandstone, and now under the limestone cliffs.
    A strip of verdant cultivated land, seldom more
    than six or eight miles wide, and often only as
    many yards, borders the broad river; and beyond
    this, on either side, is the desert. In Upper
    Egypt one may seldom take an afternoon’s ride
    due east or due west without passing out either
    on to the sun-baked sand of a limitless wilderness
    or into the liquid shadows of the towering hills.
    For the present we are not concerned with the
    western desert, which actually forms part of the
    great Sahara, and one’s back may therefore be
    turned upon it.
    6 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    Eastwards, behind the hills or over the sand,
    there is in most parts of the country a wide
    undulating plain, broken here and there by the
    limestone outcrops. Here the sun beats down
    from a vast sky, and the traveller feels himself
    but a fly crawling upon a brazen table. In all
    directions the desert stretches, until, in a leaden
    haze, the hot sand meets the hot sky. The
    hillocks and points of rock rise like islands from
    the floods of the mirage in which they are reflected
    ; and sometimes there are clumps of
    withered bushes to tell of the unreality of the
    The scenery here is often of exquisite beauty
    and its very monotony lends to it an interest
    when for a while the grouping of the hills ceases
    to offer new pictures and new harmonies to the
    eye. Setting out on a journey towards the Red
    Sea one rides on camel-back over this rolling plain,
    with the sun bombarding one’s helmet from above
    and the wind charging it from the flank ; and, as
    noonday approaches, one often looks in vain for a
    rock under which to find shade. Naturally the
    glaring sand is far hotter than the shady earth
    under the palms in the cultivation ; but the
    stagnant, dusty, fly-filled air of the groves is not
    to be compared with the clear atmosphere up in
    The Eastern Desert and its Interests. 7
    the wilderness. There are no evil odours here,
    breeding sickness and beckoning death. The wind
    blows so purely that one might think it had not
    touched earth since the gods released it from the
    golden caverns. The wide ocean itself has not less
    to appeal to the sense of smell than has the fair
    Descending from the camel for lunch, one lies on
    one’s back upon the sand and stares up at the deep
    blue of the sky and the intense whiteness of a
    passing cloud. Raising oneself, the Nile valley
    may still be seen, perhaps, with its palms floating
    above the vaporous mirage ; and away in the
    distance the pale cliffs rise. Then across one’s
    range of sight a butterfly zigzags, blazing in the
    sunlight ; and behind it the blue becomes darker
    and the white more extreme. Around one, on the
    face of the desert, there is a jumbled collection of
    things beautiful : brown flints, white pebbles of
    limestone, yellow fragments of sandstone, orangecoloured
    ochre, transparent pieces of gypsum,
    carnelian and alabaster chips, glittering quartz.
    Across the clear patches of sand there are all
    manner of recent footprints, and the incidental
    study of these is one of the richest delights of
    a desert journey. Here one may see the fourpronged
    footprints of a wagtail, and there the
    8 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    arger marks of a crow. An eagle’s and a vulture’s
    footmarks are often to be observed, and the identification
    of those of birds such as the desert
    partridge or of the cream-coloured courser is a
    happy exercise for one’s ingenuity. Here the
    light, wiggly line of a lizard’s rapid tour abroad
    attracts the attention, reminding one of some
    American globe-trotter’s route over Europe ; and
    there footprints of the jerboa are seen leading in
    short jumps towards its hole. Jackals or foxes
    leave their dainty pad-marks in all directions,
    and one may sometimes come across the heavy
    prints of a hysena, while it is not unusual to meet
    with those of a gazelle.
    In the afternoon one rides onwards, and perhaps
    a hazy view of the granite hills may now be
    obtained in the far distance ahead. The sun
    soon loses its strength, and shines in slantinglines
    over the desert, so that one sees oneself
    in shadow stretched out to amazing lengths, as
    though the magnetic power of night in the east
    were already dragging in the reluctant darknesses
    to its dark self. Each human or camel footprint
    in the sand is at this hour a basin filled with blue
    shade, while every larger dent in the desert’s
    surface is brimful of that same blue ; and the
    colour is so opaque that an Arab lying therein
    The Eastern Desert and its Interests. 9
    clad in his blue shirt is almost indistinguishable
    at a distance. Above one the white clouds go
    tearing by, too busy, too intent, it would seem,
    on some far-off goal to hover blushing around the
    sun. The light fades, and the camp is pitched
    on the open plain ; and now one is glad to wrap
    oneself in a large overcoat, and to swallow the hot
    tea which has been prepared over a fire of the
    dried scrub of Egypt desert safari .
    The nights in the desert are as beautiful as the
    days, though in winter they are often bitterly cold.
    With the assistance of a warm bed and plenty of
    blankets, however, one may sleep in the open in
    comfort ; and only those who have known this
    vast bedroom will understand how beautiful night
    may be. If one turns to the east, one may stare
    at Mars flashing red somewhere over Arabia, and
    westwards there is Jupiter blazing above the
    Sahara. One looks up and up at the expanse
    of star-strewn blue, and one’s mind journeys of
    itself into the place of dreams before sleep has
    come to conduct it thither. The dark desert
    drops beneath one; the bed floats in mid -air,
    with planets above and below. Could one but
    peer over the side, earth would be seen as small
    and vivid as the moon. But a trance holds the
    body inactive, and the eyes are fixed upon the
    io Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    space above. Then, quietly, a puff of wind brings
    one down again to realities as it passes from darkness
    to darkness. Consciousness returns quickly
    and gently, points out the aspect of the night,
    indicates the larger celestial bodies, and as quickly
    and gently leaves one again to the tender whispers
    of sleep.
    When there is moonlight there is more to carry
    the eye into the region of dreams on earth than
    there is in the heavens ; for the desert spreads out
    around one in a silver, shimmering haze, and no
    limit can be placed to its horizons. The eye cannot
    tell where the sand meets the sky, nor can the
    mind know whether there is any meeting. In the
    dimness of coming sleep one wonders whether the
    hands of the sky are always just out of reach of
    those of the desert, whether there is always another
    mile to journey and always another hill to
    climb ; and, wondering, one drifts into unconsciousness.
    At dawn the light brings one back to
    earth in time to see the sun pass up from behind
    the low hills. In contrast to the vague night the
    proceeding is rapid and business-like. The light
    precedes its monarch only by half an hour or so
    and ere the soft colours have been fully appreciated,
    the sun appears over the rocks and flings a sharp
    In the Desert. The Author is seen on the near camel.
    On the edg-e oi’ the Eastern Desert.– Page 30.
    Pl. 1.


    The Eastern Desert and its Interests, n
    beam into the eyes of every living thing, so that in
    a moment the camp is stirred and awakened.
    During the second or third day’s ride one generally
    enters the granite regions, and one is lost
    amidst the intricate valleys which pass between
    the peaks of the hills. Here one may find plenty
    of shelter from the sun’s rays in the shadow of
    the cliffs ; and as the camel jogs along over the
    hard gravel tracks, or as one sits for refreshment
    with the back propped against a great grey
    boulder, the view which is to be enjoyed is often
    magnificent. On the one side the dark granite,
    porphyry, or breccia rocks rise up like the towered
    and buttressed walls of some fairy-tale city ; while
    on the other side range rises behind range, and a
    thousand peaks harmonise their delicate purples
    and greys with the blue of the sky. When the
    sun sets these lofty peaks are flushed with pink,
    and, like mediators between earth and heaven,
    carry to the dark valleys the tale of a glory which
    one cannot see. There is usually plenty of scrub
    to be found in the valleys with which to build the
    evening fires, and with good luck one might replenish
    the food-supplies with the tender flesh of
    the gazelle. Every two or three days one may
    camp beside a well of pure water, where the camels
    12 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    may drink, and from which the portable tanks may
    be refilled.
    Near these wells there are sometimes a few
    Bedwin to be found tending their little herds of
    goats : quiet, harmless sons of the desert, who
    generally own allegiance to some Shekh living in
    the Nile valley. One’s guides and camel-men
    exchange greetings with them, and pass the latest
    news over the camp fires. Often, however, one
    may journey for many days without meeting either
    a human being or a four-footed animal, though on
    the well-marked tracks the prints of goats and
    goatherds, camels and camel-men, are apparent.
    No matter in what direction one travels, hardly
    a day passes on which one does not meet with
    some trace of ancient activity. Here it will be a
    deserted gold-mine, there a quarry ; here a ruined
    fortress or town, and there an inscription upon the
    rocks. Indications of the present day are often so
    lacking, and Time seems to be so much at a standstill,
    that one slips back in imagination to the dim
    elder days. The years fall from one like a garment
    doffed, and one experiences a sense of relief from
    their weight. A kind of exhilaration, moreover,
    goes with the thought of the life of the men of
    thousands of years ago who lived amongst these
    changeless hills and valleys. Their days were so
    The Eastern Desert and its Interests. 13
    full of adventure : they were beset with dangers.
    One has but to look at the fortified camps, the
    watch-towers on the heights, the beacons along the
    highroads, to realise how brave were the ” olden
    times.” One of the peculiar charms of these hills
    of the Eastern Desert is their impregnation with
    the atmosphere of a shadowy adventurous past.
    One’s mind is conscious, if it may be so expressed,
    of the ghosts of old sights, the echoes of old
    sounds. Dead ambitions, dead terrors, drift
    through these valleys on the wind, or lurk behind
    the tumbled rocks. Rough inscriptions on these
    rocks tell how this captain or that centurion here
    rested, and on the very spot the modern traveller
    rests to ease the self-same aches and to enjoy the
    self-same shade before moving on towards an
    identical goal in the east.
    On the third or fourth day after leaving the
    Nile one passes beneath the mountains, which here
    rise sometimes to as much as 6000 feet ; and beyond
    these the road slopes through the valleys
    down to the barren Red Sea coast, which may be
    any distance from 100 to 400 miles from the Nile.
    Kossair is the one town on the coast opposite
    Upper Egypt, as it was also in ancient times ; and
    Berenice, opposite Lower Nubia, was the only other
    town north of Sudan territory. Kossair does a
    14 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    fast-diminishing trade with Arabia, and a handful
    of Egyptian coastguards is kept mildly busy in the
    prevention of smuggling. The few inhabitants of
    the Egyptian coast fish, sleep, say their prayers,
    or dream in the shade of their hovels until death
    at an extremely advanced age releases them from
    the boredom of existence. Those of them who are
    of Arab stock sometimes enliven their days by
    shooting one another in a more or less sporting
    manner, and by wandering to other and more remote
    settlements thereafter ; but those of Egyptian
    blood have not the energy even for this amount of
    exertion. There is a lethargy over the desert
    which contrasts strangely with one’s own desire
    for activity under the influence of the sun and the
    wind, and of the records of ancient toil which are
    to be observed on all sides. It must be that we of
    the present day come as the sons of a race still in
    its youth ; and in this silent land we meet only
    with the worn-out remnant of a people who have
    been old these thousands of years.
    There was a threefold reason for the activities of
    the ancients in the Eastern Desert. Firstly, from
    Koptos, a city on the Nile not far from Thebes, to
    Kossair there ran the great trade-route with
    Arabia, Persia, and India ; from Suez to Koptos
    there was a route by which the traders from Syria
    The Eastern Desert and its Interests. 15
    often travelled ; from Edfu to Berenice there was
    a trade-route for the produce of Southern Arabia
    and the ancient land of Pount ; while other roads
    from point to point of the Nile were often used as
    short-cuts. Secondly, in this desert there were very
    numerous gold mines, the working of which was
    one of the causes which made Egypt the richest
    country of the ancient world. And thirdly, the
    ornamental stones which were to be quarried in the
    hills were in continuous requisition for the buildings
    and statuary of Egypt, Assyria, Persia, and Rome.
    There is much to be said in regard to the goldmining,
    but here space will not permit of more
    than the most cursory review of the information.
    Gold was used in Egypt at a date considerably
    prior to the beginning of written history in
    Dynasty I., and there are many archaic objects
    richly decorated with that metal. The situation
    of many of the early cities of the Nile valley is due
    solely to this industry. When two cities of high
    antiquity are in close proximity to one another on
    opposite banks of the river, as is often the case in
    Upper Egypt, one generally finds that the city on
    the western bank is the older of the two. In the
    case of Diospolis Parva and Khenoboskion, which
    stand opposite to one another, the former, on the
    west bank, is the more ancient and is the capital
    1 6 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    of the province, and the latter, on the east bank,
    does not date earlier than Dynasty YI. Of Ombos
    and Koptos, the former, on the west bank, has prehistoric
    cemeteries around it ; while the latter, on
    the east bank, dates from Dynasty I. at the
    earliest. Hieraconpolis and Eileithyiapolis stand
    opposite to each other, and the former, which is on
    the west bank, is certainly the more ancient. Of
    Elephantine and Syene, the latter, on the east
    bank, is by far the less ancient. And in the case
    of Pselchis and Baki (Kubban), the former, on the
    west bank, has near it an archaic fortress ; while
    the latter, on the east bank, does not date earlier
    than Dynasty XII. The reason of this is to be
    found in the fact that most of the early cities were
    engaged in gold-mining, and despatched caravans
    into the Eastern Desert for that purpose. These
    cities were usually built on the western bank of
    the river, since the main routes of communication
    from end to end of Egypt passed along the western
    desert. Mining stations had, therefore, to be
    founded on the eastern bank opposite to the
    parent cities ; and these stations soon became
    cities themselves as large as those on the western
    shore. Thus the antiquity of the eastern city in
    each of these cases indicates at least that same
    antiquity for the mining of gold.
    Desert vegetation. The Coloquintida plant.
    A near view of the Coloquintida plant. Photographed in the Wady Abad.
    Pl. ii.

    The Eastern Desert and its Interests. 17
    Throughout what is known as the old kingdom,
    gold was used in ever- increasing quantities, but an
    idea of the wealth of the mines will best be obtained
    from the records of the Empire. About
    250,000 grains of gold were drawn by the Yizir
    Rekhmara in taxes from Upper Egypt, and this
    was but a small item in comparison with the taxes
    levied in kind. A king of a north Syrian state
    wrote to Amonhotep III., the Pharaoh of Egypt,
    asking for gold, and towards the end of his letter
    he says : ” Let my brother send gold in very large
    quantities, without measure, and let him send more
    gold to me than he did to my father ; for in my
    brother’s land gold is as common as dust.” To the
    god Amon alone Rameses III. presented some
    26,000 grains of gold, and to the other gods he
    gave at the same time very large sums. In later
    times the High Priest of Amon was made also
    director of the gold mines, and it was the diverting
    of this vast wealth from the crown to the church
    which was mainly responsible for the fall of the
    Ramesside line.
    A subject must here be introduced which will
    ever remain of interest to the speculative. Some
    have thought that the southern portion of this
    desert is to be identified with the Ophir of the
    Bible, and that the old gold-workings here are
    1 8 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    none other than ” King Solomon’s Mines.” In the
    Book of Kings one reads, ” And King Solomon
    made a navy of ships in Ezion-geber, which is
    beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red Sea, in the
    land of Edom. And Hiram sent in the navy his
    servants, shipmen that had knowledge of the sea,
    with the servants of Solomon. And they came to
    Ophir, and fetched from thence gold, four hundred
    and twenty talents, and brought it to King
    Solomon.” Ophir cannot be identified with Arabia,
    since there is no gold there ; and hence one may
    seek this land of ancient wealth at the southern
    end of the Eastern Egyptian Desert. If it is
    argued that the Hebrews would have found
    difficulties in carrying on mining operations
    unmolested in Egyptian territory, it may be
    contended on the other hand that King Solomon
    may have made some bargain with the Pharaoh :
    for example, that the former might mine in a
    certain tract of desert if the latter might cut
    timber in the Lebanon. The purchase of cedarwood
    by the Egyptians is known to have taken
    place at about this period, payment in gold being
    made ; and therefore it does not require an undue
    stretch of the imagination to suppose that the
    Hebrews themselves mined the gold. Again, at
    the time when King Solomon reigned in all his
    The Eastern Desert and its Interests. 19
    glory in Palestine, the short-lived Pharaohs of
    Egypt sat upon tottering thrones, and were wholly
    unable to protect the Eastern Desert from invasion.
    The Egyptians often state that they
    encountered hostile forces in this land, and
    these may not always have consisted of Bedwin
    No savant has accepted for a moment the various
    theories which place Ophir at the southern end of
    the African continent ; and the most common view
    is that Solomon obtained his gold from the land of
    Pount, so often referred to in Egyptian inscriptions.
    This country is thought to have been
    situated in the neighbourhood of Suakin ; but, as
    Professor Naville points out, it is a somewhat
    vague geographical term, and may include a large
    tract of country to the north and south of this
    point. One cannot imagine the Hebrews penetrating
    very far over the unknown seas to the
    perilous harbours of Middle Africa : one pictures
    them more easily huddled in the less dangerous
    ports of places such as Kossair or Berenice, or at
    farthest in that of Suakin. It is thus quite
    probable that some of the gold-workings in the
    desert here described are actually King Solomon’s
    Mines, and that the country through which the
    reader will be conducted is the wonderful Ophir
    20 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    itself. Certainly there is no one who can state
    conclusively that it is not.
    Work continued with unabated energy during
    the later periods of Egyptian history, and the
    Persian, Greek, and Roman treasuries were filled
    consecutively with the produce of the mines.
    Several classical writers make reference to these
    operations, and sometimes one is told the actual
    name and situation of the workings. Diodorus
    gives a description of the mines in the Wady
    Alagi, and tells how the work was done. The
    miners wore a lamp tied to their forehead. The
    stone was carried to the surface by children, and
    was pounded in stone mortars by iron pestles. It
    was then ground to a fine powder by old men and
    women. This powdered ore was washed on inclined
    tables, the residue being placed in earthen
    crucibles with lead, salt, and tin for fluxes, and
    was there baked for five days. Agatharchides
    describes how the prisoners and negroes hewed
    out the stone, and, with unutterable toil, crushed
    it in mills and washed out the grains of gold. The
    Arabic historian, El Macrizi, states that during
    the reign of Ahmed ben Teilun there was great
    activity in the mining industry throughout the
    Eastern Desert, and Cufic inscriptions of this date
    found in the old workings confirm this statement.
    One of the riding camels.
    One of the cai
    Pl. hi.

    The Eastern Desert  and its Interests. 21
    From then, until modern times, however, little
    work was done ; but in recent years, as the reader
    will no doubt know, many of the ancient workings
    have been reopened, and one must admit that if
    these are really to be regarded as King Solomon’s
    Mines, that potentate must have had a somewhat
    lower opinion of Ophir than tradition indicates.
    The other cause for the ancient activity in the
    Eastern Desert was, as has been said, the need of
    ornamental stone for the making of vases, statues,
    and architectural accessories. From the earliest
    times bowls and vases of alabaster, breccia, diorrte,
    and other fine stones were used by the Egyptians,
    and the quarries must have already formed quite a
    flourishing industry. Soon the making of statuettes,
    and later of statues, enlarged this industry,
    and with the growth of civilisation it steadily increased.
    The galleries of the Cairo Museum, and
    those of European museums, are massed with
    statues and other objects cut in stone brought
    from the hills between the Nile and the Red
    Sea. The breccia quarries of Wady Hammamat
    were worked from archaic to Roman days ; the
    Tourquoise Mountains, not far from Kossair, supplied
    the markets of the ancient world ; white
    granite was taken from the hills of Um Etgal
    there were two or three alabaster quarries in con22
    Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    stant use ; and in the time of the Roman Empire
    the famous Imperial porphyry was quarried in the
    mountains of Gebel Dukhan. One may still see
    blocks of breccia at Hammamat, of granite at Um
    Etgal, or of porphyry at Dukhan, lying abandoned
    at the foot of the hills, although numbered and
    actually addressed to the Caesars. The towns in
    which the quarrymen lived still stand in defiance
    of the years, and the traveller who has the energy
    to penetrate into the distant valleys where they
    are situated may there walk through streets untrodden
    since the days of Nero and Trajan, and
    yet still littered with the chippings from the dressing
    of the blocks.
    In the old days the provisioning of the mining
    and quarrying settlements must have taxed the
    ingenuity even of the Egyptians ; and the establishing
    of workable lines of communication with
    the distant Nile must have required the most
    careful organisation. The caravans bringing food
    were of great size, for there were often several
    thousands of hungry miners to be fed. In Dynasty
    VI. one reads of 200 donkeys and 50 oxen being
    used in the transport, and in Dynasty XI. 60,000
    loaves of bread formed the daily requirements in
    food of one expedition. In late Eamesside times
    the food of an expedition of some 9000 men was
    The Eastern Desert and its Interests. 23
    carried on ten large carts, each drawn by six yoke
    of oxen, while porters “innumerable” are said to
    have been employed. The families of the workmen
    generally lived on the spot, and these also
    had to be fed—a fact which is indicated, too, by
    an inscription which states that in one expedition
    each miner required twenty loaves of bread per
    Whenever this organisation broke down the
    consequences must have been awful. In this
    quarrying expedition in Ramesside times, consisting
    of 9000 men, 10 per cent of them died
    from one cause or another ; and later writers
    speak of the “horrors” of the mines. In summer
    the heat is intense in the desert, and the wells
    could not always have supplied sufficient water.
    The rocks are then so hot that they cannot be
    touched by the bare hand, and one’s boots are
    little protection to the feet. Standing in the sunlight,
    the ring has to be removed from one’s finger,
    for the hot metal burns a blister upon the flesh.
    After a few hours of exercise there is a white
    lather upon the lips, and the eyes are blinded
    with the moisture which has collected around
    them ; and thus what the quarrymen and miners
    must have suffered as they worked upon the
    scorching stones no tongue can tell.
    24 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    In ancient Egyptian times the camel was regarded
    as a curious beast from a far country, and
    was seldom, if ever, put to any use in Egypt.
    Only three or four representations of it are now
    known, and it never occurs amongst any of the
    animals depicted upon the walls of the tombs,
    although bears, elephants, giraffes, and other
    foreign and rare creatures, are there shown. It
    was an Asiatic animal, and was not introduced
    into Egypt as an agent of transportation until
    the days of the ubiquitous Romans. Donkeys,
    oxen, and human beings were alone used in
    Pharaonic days for transporting the necessities
    of the labourers and the produce of their work ;
    and probably the officials were carried to and fro
    in sedan-chairs. Even in Roman days there is
    nothing to show that the camel was very largely
    employed, and one may not amuse oneself too
    confidently with the picture of a centurion of
    the Empire astride the hump of the rolling ship
    of the desert.
    Nowadays, of course, one travels entirely by
    camel in the desert. For an expedition of fifteen
    days or so one generally requires about a dozen
    camels all told, and one or two guides. Some of
    the animals carry the water in portable tanks
    others are loaded with the tents and beds ; and
    The Eastern Desert and its Interests. 25
    others carry the boxes of tinned food and bottled
    drinks. The whole caravan rattles and bumps as
    it passes through the echoing valleys, and one’s
    cook rises from amidst a clattering medley of
    saucepans and kettles which are slung around
    his saddle. The camels are obtained, at the rate
    of two to three shillings per diem, from some
    Shekh, who holds himself more or less responsible
    for one’s safety. With a steady steed and a good
    saddle there are few means of locomotion so enjoyable
    as camel-riding. Once the art is learnt it is
    never forgotten, and after the tortures of the first
    day or so of the first expedition, one need never
    again suffer from stiffness, though many months
    may elapse between the journeys. This preliminary
    suffering is due to one’s inability at the
    outset to adjust the muscles to the peculiar
    motion ; but the knowledge comes unconsciously
    after a while and ever remains.
    One jogs along at the rate of about four and
    a half or five miles an hour, and some thirty miles
    a- day is covered with ease. The baggage camels
    travel at about three miles an hour. They start
    first, are passed during the morning, catch one up
    at the long rest for luncheon, are again passed
    during the afternoon, and arrive about an hour
    after the halt has been called. If possible, all
    26 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    the camels drink every second day, but they are
    quite capable of going strongly for three or four
    days without water, and, when really necessary,
    can travel for a week or more through a land
    without wells.
    While the Mines Department was in existence
    experiments were tried with automobiles and
    motor bicycles, which were by no means unsuccessful.
    Many of the main roads in the Eastern
    Desert pass over hard gravel, and a motor may
    be driven with safety over the unprepared camel
    tracks. If wells were sunk every ten or fifteen
    miles, there would be no dangers to be feared from
    a breakdown ; and under favourable circumstances
    the journey from the Nile to the Red Sea might
    be accomplished in a morning. In the future
    one may picture the energetic tourist leaving
    his Luxor or Cairo hotel, whirling over the open
    plains where now one crawls, rushing through the
    valleys in which the camel-rider lingers, penetrating
    to the remote ruins and deserted workings,
    and emerging breathless on to the golden coast of
    the sea, to wave his handkerchief to his friends
    upon the decks of the Indian liners.
    The time must surely come when the owners
    of automobiles in Egypt will sicken of the short
    roads around Cairo, and will venture beyond the
    The Eastern Desert and its Interests. 27
    garden wall towards the rising sun. Whether it
    will be that the re-working of the gold mines and
    the quarries of ornamental stone will attract the
    attention of these persons to this wonderful wilderness,
    or that the enterprising automobilists will
    pave the way for the miners and the quarrymen,
    it is certain that some day the desert will blossom
    with the rose once more, and the rocks reverberate
    with the sound of many voices. Had I now in my
    two open hands pearls, diamonds, and rubies, how
    gladly would I give them—or some of them—for
    the sight of the misty mountains of the Eastern
    Desert, and for the feel of the sharp air of the
    hills ! One looks forward with enthusiasm to the
    next visit to these unknown regions, and one cannot
    but feel that those who have it in their power
    to travel there are missing much in remaining
    within the walls of the little garden of the Nile.
    One hears in imagination the camels grunting as
    their saddles are adjusted ; one feels the tingle of
    the morning air ; and one itches to be off again,
    “over the hills and far away,” into the solitary
    splendour of the desert.
    The so-called Breccia Quarries of Wady Hammamat
    are known to all Egyptologists by name,
    owing to the important historical inscriptions
    which are cut on the rocks of the valley. In
    reality the stone quarried there was mainly tuff,
    or consolidated volcanic ash ; and the real name of
    the locality is Wady Fowakhieh, ” the Valley of the
    Pots ” ; but such niceties do not trouble the average
    archaeologist. Many of the inscriptions were
    copied by Lepsius, the late German Egyptologist,
    and further notes were made by Golenischeff, a
    Russian savant ; but except for these two persons
    no Egyptologist has studied the quarries. They
    have been seen, however, on a few occasions by
    Europeans ; and, as the caravan road to Kossair
    passes along the valley in which they are situated,
    they are known to all the natives who have
    crossed the desert at this point. In November
    1907 I found it possible to visit this historic
    To the Quarries of Wady Hammamat. 29
    site, and I was fortunate enough to obtain the
    companionship of three English friends who happened,
    very opportunely, to be in search of mild
    excitement at the time.
    We set out from Luxor one morning in November,
    our caravan consisting in all of twentythree
    camels, nine of which were ridden by our
    four selves, my servant, two guards, the Shekh of
    the camelmen, and the guide, while fourteen were
    loaded with the three tents, the baggage, and the
    water-tanks, and were tended by a dozen camelmen
    who made the journey mainly on foot. Our
    road led eastwards from Luxor past the temple of
    the goddess Mut at Karnak, reflected in its sacred
    lake, and so along the highroad towards the rising
    sun. The day was cool, and a strong invigorating
    breeze raced past us, going in the same direction.
    Before us, as we crossed the fields, the sunlit
    desert lay stretched behind the soft green of the
    tamarisks which border its edge. Away to the
    right the three peaks of the limestone hills, which
    form the characteristic background of Thebes, rose
    into the sunlight ; and to the left one could discern
    the distant ranges behind which we were to
    On reaching the desert we turned off northwards
    towards these hills, skirting the edge of the
    30 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    cultivated land until we should pick up the ancient
    road which leaves the Nile valley some twenty
    miles north of Luxor. After luncheon and a rest
    in the shade of the rustling tamarisks the ride was
    continued, and we did not again dismount until, in
    the mid-afternoon, the Coptic monastery which is
    situated behind the town of Qus, and which marks
    the beginning of the road to the Red Sea, was
    reached ; and here the camp was pitched. The
    quiet five-hours’ ride of about twenty miles had
    sufficed to produce healthy appetites in the party,
    and, when the sun went down and the air turned
    cold, we were glad to attack an early dinner in
    the warmth of the mess-tent—one of the camelboxes
    serving as a table, and the four saddles
    taking the place of chairs.
    The next morning we set out soon after sunrise,
    and rode eastwards into the desert, which here
    stretched out before us in a blaze of sunlight. The
    road passed over the open gravel and sand in a
    series of parallel tracks beaten hard by the pads of
    generations of camels. Gebel el Gorn, ” the Hill
    of the Horn,” was passed before noon ; and, mounting
    a ridge, we saw the wide plain across which
    we were to travel, intersected by a dry river-bed
    marked for its whole length by low bushes. Unable
    to find shade, and these bushes being still
    1-3. Marks on a rock near Quft.
    4-6. On a rock near Qus. Old kingdom drawings
    7. On a stone at Lageta.—Page 32.
    8, 9. Inside Kasr el Benat.—Page 33.
    10-12. On rocks opposite Kasr el Benat.—Page 34.
    13, 14. Sinaitic inscription opposite Kasr el Benat—Page 34.-
    15-20. Opposite Kasr el Benat.—Page 34.
    21-24. Marks on rocks of Abu Kueh.—Page 34.
    25-32. Middle kingdom inscriptions, and marks at Abu Kueh.-
    Page 34.
    PL. IV.

    r cJJ_ ^V
    fTIB€PIOYKAAYAlL QC fL. Jj r^ /7N
    KTOKPATOPOCnANITl r~ ‘ |JT „ U 4.
    \N60CnPOCTATHC ‘,, ^ T ^ . i b | 12
    Pl. iv.

    To the Quarries of Wady Hammamat. 31
    some distance ahead, we lunched in the open sunlight
    at a spot where the wind, sweeping over the
    ridge, brought us all the coolness which we could
    We were now on the great mediaeval highway
    from Qus to Kossair, by which the Arabian and
    Indian trade with Egypt was once conducted.
    The quarries of Hammamat lie on the main road to
    the sea. Nowadays the road starts from Keneh
    in ancient times it started from Koptos, now called
    Quft, about ten miles south of Keneh ; and in
    mediaeval days it started from Qus, about ten
    miles south of Quft again. The roads from these
    different places join at the little oasis of Lageta,
    which lies some four-and-twenty miles back from
    the Nile valley.
    Riding into Lageta in mid-afternoon the scene
    was one of great charm. The flat desert stretched
    around us in a haze of heat. In the far distance
    ahead the mountains of Hammamat could be seen,
    blue, misty, and indistinct. The little oasis, with
    its isolated groups of tamarisks, its four or five tall
    palms, its few acacias, and its one little crop of
    corn, formed a welcome patch of green amidst the
    barren wilderness ; and the eyes, aching from the
    glare around, turned with gratitude towards the
    soft shadows of the trees. A large, and probably
    32 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    ancient, well of brackish water forms the nucleus
    around which the few poor huts cluster ; and two
    or three shadufs, or water-hoists, are to be seen
    here and there. A ruined, many-domed building
    which may have been a caravanserai, or perhaps a
    Coptic monastery, stands picturesquely under a
    spreading acacia ; and near it we found the fragment
    of a Greek inscription in which, like a light
    emerging momentarily from the darkness of the
    past, the name of the Emperor Tiberius Claudius
    was to be seen. The few villagers idly watched us
    as we dismounted and walked through the settlement,
    too bathed in the languor of their monotonous
    life to bother to do more than greet with mild
    interest those of our camelmen whom they knew
    and while we sat under the tamarisks to drink our
    tea, the only living thing which took any stock of
    us and our doings was a small green willow-wren
    in search of a crumb of food.
    The camp was pitched to the east of the oasis,
    and at dawn we continued our way. The temperature
    was not more than 38° Fahrenheit when
    the sun rose, and we were constrained to break
    into a hard trot in order to keep warm. Two
    desert martins circled about us as we went, now
    passing under the camels’ necks, and now whirling
    overhead ; while more than once we put up a few
    To the Quarries of Wady Hammamat. 33
    cream-coloured coursers, who went off with a whirr
    into the space around. After a couple of hours’
    riding over the open, hard-surfaced desert, we
    topped a low ridge and came into view of a ruined
    Roman station, called in ancient times the Hydreuma,
    and now known as Kasr el Benat, “the
    Castle of the Maidens.” The building stands in a
    level plain around which the low hills rise, and to
    the east the distant Hammamat mountains form a
    dark background. From the outside one sees a
    well-made rectangular wall, and entering the doorway
    on the north side one passes into an enclosure
    surrounded by a series of small chambers, the
    roofs of which have now fallen in. In these little
    rooms the weary Roman officers and the caravan
    masters rested themselves as they passed to and
    fro between the quarries and the Nile ; and in this
    courtyard, when haply the nights were warm, they
    sang their songs to the stars and dreamed their
    dreams of Rome. The building is so little ruined
    that one may picture it as it then was without
    any difficulty ; and such is the kindness of Time
    that one peoples the place with great men and
    good, intent on their work and happy in their
    exile, rather than with that riff-raff which so often
    found its way to these outlying posts.
    Across the plain, opposite the entrance to the
    34 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    Hydreuma, there is a large isolated rock with
    cliff-like sides, upon which one finds all manner of
    inscriptions and rough drawings. Here there are
    two Sinaitic inscriptions of rare value and several
    curious signs in an unknown script, while Ababdeh
    marks and Arabic letters are conspicuous.
    We mounted our camels again at about eleven
    o’clock, and rode towards the wall of the Medik es-
    Salam hills ahead, passing into their shadows soon
    after noonday. We halted for luncheon in the
    shade of a group of rocks, and our meal was enlivened
    by the presence of two butterflies which
    seemed out of place in the barren Egypt desert safari and yet
    in harmony with the breezy, light-hearted spirit of
    the place. Early in the afternoon we rode on, but
    an hour had not passed when some obvious inscriptions
    on the rocks to the left of the track,
    opposite a point where the road bends sharply to
    the right, attracted my attention. These proved
    to date from the Middle Empire, about B.C. 2000,
    and no doubt marked a camp of that date. The
    names of various officials were given, and a prayer
    or two to the gods was to be read. Rounding the
    corner, we had no sooner settled ourselves to the
    camels’ trot than another group of inscriptions on
    the rocks to the right of the path necessitated a
    further halt. Here there were two very important
    To the Quarries of Wady Hammamat. 35
    graffiti of the time of Akbnaton ; and considerable
    light is thrown by one of them upon the fascinating
    period of the religious revolution of that king.
    One sees three cartouches, of which the first is
    that of Queen Thiy, the second reads Amonhotep
    (IV.), and the third seems to have given the
    name Akhnaton ; but both this cartouche and that
    of Thiy are erased. The three cartouches are
    placed together above the symbols of sovereignty,
    and below the rays of the sun’s disk, thus showing
    that Akhnaton was but a boy of tender years
    under his mothers guidance when he first came
    to the throne, and that the Aton worship had
    already begun. It would be too long a matter
    to explain the significance of this inscription
    here, but those who are of an inquiring mind
    may turn to the article on this subject in the
    October number of ‘ Blackwood’s Magazine ‘ for
    1907, where I have described how the recently
    found mummy of Akhnaton proved to be that
    of a very young man.
    The shadows were lengthening when we once
    more mounted and trotted up the valley, which
    presently led into more open ground ; but after
    half an hour’s ride a second Eoman station came
    into sight, and again the grumbling camels had to
    kneel. The building is much ruined, and is not of
    36 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    great interest to those who have already seen the
    Hydreuma and other stations. As we continued
    the journey the sun set behind us, and in the
    growing moonlight the valley looked ghostly and
    wonderfully beautiful. The shapes of the rocks
    became indistinct, and one was hardly aware when
    the well known as Bir Hammamat was at last
    reached. This well lies in a flat, gravelly amphitheatre
    amidst the rugged hills, which press in on
    all sides. It is in all about six hours’ ride

    twenty-eight or thirty miles—from Lageta ; but
    our several halts had spread the journey over
    twice that length of time. The well is circular
    and fairly large, and stones dropped into its pitchdark
    depths seemed a long time in striking the
    water. A subterranean stairway, restored in
    recent years by a mining company, runs down atone
    side to the water’s level ; and at its doorway
    in the moonlight we sat and smoked until the
    baggage camels came up.
    The next morning we rode up a valley which
    was now tortuous and narrow. This is the Wady
    Hammamat of the archaeologist, and the Wady
    Fowakhieh of the natives. Dark, threatening
    hills towered on either side, as though eager to
    prison for ever the deeds once enacted at their
    feet. One’s voice echoed amongst the rocks, and
    Under the tamarisks of the oasis of Lag-eta.—Page 3
    Rir Hammamat, looking- south.—Page 36.
    Pl. V

    To the Quarries of Wady Hammamat. 37
    the wind carried the sound down the valley and
    round the bend, adding to it its own quiet whispers.
    A ride of about half an hour’s length brought
    us to some ruined huts where the ancient quarrynien
    had lived in the days of the Pharaohs. From
    this point onwards for perhaps a mile the rocks
    on either side are dotted with inscriptions, from
    which a part of the history of the valley may
    be learnt. The place is full of whispers. As the
    breeze blows round the rocks and up the silent
    water -courses it is as though the voices of men
    long since forgotten were drifting uncertainly by.
    One feels as though the rocks were peopled with
    insistent entities, all muttering the tales of long
    ago. Behind this great rock there is something
    laughing quietly to itself; up this dry waterfall
    there is a sort of whimpering ; and here in this
    silent recess one might swear that the word to be
    silent had been passed around. It is only the
    wind and the effect of the contrast between the
    exposed and the still places sheltered by the
    rocks ; but, with such a history as is writ upon
    its walls, one might believe the valley to be
    crowded with the ghosts of those who have
    suffered or triumphed in it.
    Wady Fowakhieh extends from the Bir Hammamat
    to the well known as Bir Fowakhieh, which
    38 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    lies in the open circus at the east end of the
    valley. Although the tuff quarried here is of
    a blue or olive-green colour, the surface of the
    rocks, except where they are broken, is a sort
    of chocolate-brown. One thus obtains an extraordinary
    combination of browns and blues, which
    with the flush of the sunset and the dim purple
    of the distant hill -tops forms a harmony as
    beautiful as any the world knows. The flat,
    gravel bed of the valley is from fifty to a hundred
    yards wide, and along this level surface run
    numerous camel-tracks, more or less parallel with
    one another. Besides the inscriptions there are
    other traces of ancient work : an unfinished shrine,
    and a sarcophagus, abandoned owing to its having
    cracked, are to be seen where the workmen of
    some five -and -twenty centuries ago left them
    and here and there a group of ruined huts is to
    be observed.
    Amidst these relics of the old world our tents
    were pitched, having been removed from Bir
    Hammamat as soon as breakfast had been
    finished ; and with camera, note-book, and sketching
    apparatus, the four of us dispersed in different
    directions, my own objective, of course, being the
    inscriptions. The history of Wady Fowakhieh
    begins when the history of Egypt begins, and one
    To the Quarries of Wady Hammamat. 39
    must look back into the dim uncertainties of the
    archaic period for the first evidences of the working
    of the quarries in this valley. Many beautifully
    made bowls and other objects of this tuff
    are found in the graves of Dynasty I., fifty-five
    centuries ago ; and my friends and I, scrambling
    over the rocks, were fortunate enough to find in a
    little wady leading northwards from the main
    valley a large rock – drawing and inscription of
    this date. A ” vase-maker ” here offers a prayer
    to the sacred barque of the hawk -god Horus,
    which is drawn so clearly that one may see the
    hawk standing upon its shrine in the boat, an
    upright spear set before the door ; and one may
    observe the bull’s head, so often found in primitive
    countries, affixed to the prow ; while the barque
    itself is shown to be standing upon a sledge in
    order that it might be dragged over the ground.
    In Dynasties II. to IV. the objects in the
    museums show that the quarries were extensively
    worked, and in Dynasty V. one has the testimony
    of local inscriptions as well. An official under
    King Asesa, B.C. 2675, has left his name on the
    rocks on the south of the valley ; and the name
    of another who lived in the reign of Unas, B.C.
    2650, is to be seen there. Of the reign of Pepy I.,
    B.C. 2600, of Dynasty VI., one has more definite
    40 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    information. Scanning the rocks one reads of
    chief architects, master builders, assistant artisans,
    scribes, treasurers, ship-captains, and their families
    stationed at the quarries to procure stone for the
    ornamentation of the pyramid buildings of the
    king, which are still to be seen at Sakkara, near
    Cairo ; and these inscriptions mention a certain
    Thethi, who was the ” master pyramid-builder of
    the king,” and therefore was probably in charge
    of the expedition.
    In the reign of Aty, B.C. 2400, a ships captain
    named Apa came to procure stone for his master’s
    pyramid ; and with him were 200 soldiers and 200
    workmen. King Imhotep, B.C. 2400, sent his son
    Zaty with 1000 labourers, 100 quarrymen, and
    1200 soldiers, to obtain stone ; and he supplied
    200 donkeys and 50 oxen daily for its transport.
    But the first really interesting inscription on the
    rocks of the valley dates from Dynasty XL, B.C.
    2050. Here an all too brief story is told by a
    great official named Henu, recording an expedition
    made by him to the distant land of Pount in
    the eighth year of the reign of Menthuhotep III.
    The king had ordered Henu to despatch a ship
    to Pount in order to bring fresh myrrh from that
    land of spices, and he had therefore collected an
    army of 3000 men. He set out from Koptos,
    Cartouches of Sety II. on the rocks between Rir Hammamat
    and Wady Fowakhieh.
    Inscriptions on the rocks between Bir Hammamat and Wady Fowakhieh.
    Pl. vi.

    To the Quarries of Wady Hammamat. 41
    travelled over the open desert to the little oasis of
    Lageta, and so struck the road which we had
    followed. He seems to have had much consideration
    for his men, for he says, ” I made the road
    a river, and the desert a stretch of field. I gave
    a leather bottle, a carrying pole, two jars of water,
    and twenty loaves of bread to each one of the men
    every day.” When one considers that this means
    60,000 loaves of bread per day, one’s respect for
    the organising powers of the ancient Egyptians
    must be considerable. At Wady Fowakhieh he
    seems to have organised some quarry works for
    the king, and presently he pushed on towards the
    Bed Sea, digging wells as he went. The expedition,
    which will be recorded later, is then described
    ; and Henu states that, on his return
    to Wady Fowakhieh, he organised the transport
    of some five blocks of stone which were to be used
    for making statues.
    In the second year of the reign of Menthuhotep
    IV., B.C. 2000,—so runs another long rock
    inscription,—the Vizier Amonemhat was sent to
    the quarries with an expedition of 10,000 men,
    consisting of miners, artificers, quarrymen, artists,
    draughtsmen, stone – cutters, gold – workers, and
    officials. His orders were to procure ” an august
    block of the pure costly stone which is in this
    42 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    mountain, for a sarcophagus, an eternal memorial,
    and for monuments in the temples.” The presence
    of gold – workers indicates that the gold mines
    near Bir Fowakhieh were also opened. Ancient
    workings are still to be seen near this well, and
    in recent times an attempt was made to reopen
    them, which, however, was not very successful.
    One must imagine this expedition as camping at
    that well—Bir Hammamat—where we had camped
    on the previous night, and as passing up the
    valley each day to and from the quarries. This
    was a tedious walk, and a nearer water-supply
    must have been much needed. One day there
    was a heavy fall of rain, which must have lasted
    several hours, for when it had ceased the sandy
    plain at the head of the valley was found to be a
    veritable lake of water. Bain is not at all a
    common occurrence in Upper Egypt. Even now
    the peasants are peculiarly alarmed at a heavy
    downpour ; and in those far-off days the quarrymen
    were ready enough to see in the phenomenon
    a direct act of the great god Min, the patron of the
    desert. “Bain was made,” says the inscription,
    “and the form of this god appeared in it; his
    glory was shown to men. The highland was made
    a lake, the water extending to the margin of the
    rocks.” The presence of the water seems to have
    To the Quarries of Wady Hammamat. 43
    dislodged an accumulation of sand which had
    formed over an ancient and disused well ; and
    when the lake subsided the astonished labourers
    discovered its mouth, ten cubits in length on its
    every side. ” Soldiers of old and kings who had
    lived aforetime went out and returned by its side ;
    yet no eye had seen it.” It was ” undefiled, and
    had been kept pure and clean from the gazelle,
    and concealed from the Bedwin.” If this well
    is, as I suppose, the Bir Fowakhieh, it must have
    been a great boon to the workmen, for it is but
    a few minutes’ walk from the quarries, and must
    have saved them that weary tramp down to the
    Bir Hammamat at the end of their hard day’s
    When the great stone for the lid of the sarcophagus
    had been prised out of the hillside, and
    had been toppled into the valley, another wonder
    occurred. Down the track there came running
    ” a gazelle great with young, going towards the
    people before her, while her eyes looked backward,
    though she did not turn back.” The quarrymen
    must have ceased their work to watch her as she
    ran along the hard valley, looking back with
    startled eyes as the shouts of the men assailed
    her. At last ” she arrived at this block intended
    for the lid of the sarcophagus, it being still in its
    44 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    place ; and upon it she dropped her young, while
    the whole army of the king watched her.” One
    can hear the quarrymen, as they clattered into
    the valley, shouting, ” A miracle, a miracle !
    ” and
    surrounded the incapacitated creature. The end
    of the tale is told briefly. ” Then they cut her
    throat upon the block, and brought fire. The
    block descended to the Nile in safety.”
    Another inscription states that this sarcophagus
    lid was dragged down to the river by an army
    of 3000 sailors from the Delta, and that
    sacrifices of cattle, goats, and incense were constantly
    made in order to lighten the labour. It
    must have been an enormous block to drag along ;
    for even after it was dressed into the required
    shape and size by the masons in Egypt, it was
    some 14 feet in length, 7 feet in width, and 3J feet
    in thickness. Two other blocks brought down
    from these quarries at about the same date are
    said to have been 17 feet in length, while a third
    was about 20 feet long.
    In the reign of Amonemhat I. of Dynasty XII.,
    B.C. 2000, an officer named Antef was sent to the
    quarries to procure a special kind of stone, so rare
    that ” there was no hunter who knew the marvel
    of it, and none that sought it had found it.” ” I
    spent eight days,” says Antef, ” searching the hills

  • To the Quarries of Wady Hammamat. 45
    for it, but I knew not the place wherein it might
    be. I prostrated myself before Min, before Mut,
    before the goddess great in magic, and before all
    the gods of the highlands, burning incense to them
    upon the fire.” At last, after almost giving up the
    search in despair, he found the required block one
    morning just as the sun had topped the dark hills
    of the valley, and while his men were just scattering
    in all directions to renew the search. Although
    so many centuries have passed since Antef found
    his stone, one feels, when one reads this inscription
    upon the rocks, that it was but yesterday
    and one may picture the sunlit scene when, as he
    says, ” the company were in festivity and the
    entire army was praising, rejoicing, and doing
    Under other kings of this dynasty one reads, as
    one walks up the valley, of works being carried on.
    One man quarried and carried down to the river
    ten blocks which were later converted into seated
    statues 8j feet high. Another official speaks of
    his army of 2000 men which he had with
    him in this now desolate place ; and a third has
    left an inscription reading, ” I came to these highlands
    with my army in safety, by the power of
    Min, the Lord of the Highlands.”
    So the work continued from generation to
    46 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    generation, and the quarryinen, as they sat at
    noon to rest themselves in the shade, could read
    around them the names of dead kings and forgotten
    officials carved upon the rocks, and could
    place their own names in the illustrious company.
    The troubled years of the Hyksos rule checked the
    quarrying somewhat ; but in Dynasty XVIII. the
    labours were renewed, though unfortunately no
    long inscriptions have been left to illuminate the
    darkness of the history of the valley. An inscription
    of the time of Akhnaton is to be seen high up
    on the rocks, but other figures have been cut over
    it by Sety I.
    Various kings of Dynasties XIX. and XX. are
    mentioned on the rocks ; but the only important
    inscription dates from the second year of the reign
    of Rameses IV., B.C. 1165. It seems that this
    king, with a degree of energy unusual in a Pharaoh
    of this debased period, made a personal visit to the
    quarries. ” He led the way to the place he desired ;
    he went around the august mountain ; he cut an
    inscription upon this mountain engraved with the
    great name of the king.” This inscription is to be
    seen on the rocks of the valley, almost as fresh as
    when the scribes had written it. On his return to
    Egypt he organised an expedition for the purpose
    of quarrying the stone he had selected. A com1.
    Inscription at Ahu Kueh.
    2, 3. Foreign inscriptions at Abu Kueh.
    4. Inscription at Abu Kueh.
    5-12. Inscriptions and marks near Abu Kueh.
    13, 14, 16. Inscriptions at Abu Kueh, reign of Akhnaton.

  • Page 35.
    15. Aramaic inscription at Abu Kueh.
    17. Archaic drawing and inscription in a valley leading from
    Wady Fowakhieh.—Page 39
    PL. VII.

    tSf^TMfi?/*. rj: ^L
    / &
    S. tf^s+s *<&?
    — «ftsrU2+
    IS *?l
    fnSW-flffiSP -^
    Pl. vii.

    To the Quarries of Wady Hammamat. 47
    plete list of the personnel of the expedition is
    recorded, and, as it gives one an idea of the
    usual composition of a force of this kind, I may
    be permitted to give it in some detail.
    The head of the expedition was none other than
    the High Priest of Amon, and his immediate staff
    consisted of the king’s butlers, the deputy of the
    army and his secretary, the overseer of the treasury,
    two directors of the quarry service, the court
    charioteer, and the clerk of the army lists. Twenty
    clerks of the army, or of the War Office as we would
    say, and twenty inspectors of the court stables
    were attached to this group. Under a military
    commandant there were 20 infantry officers and
    5000 men, 50 charioteers, 200 sailors, and a mixed
    body of 50 priests, scribes, overseers, and veterinary
    inspectors. Under a chief artificer and three
    master quarrymen there were 130 stone-cutters
    and quarrymen ; while the main work was done by
    2000 crown slaves and 800 foreign captives. Two
    draughtsmen and four sculptors were employed for
    engraving the inscriptions, &c. A civil magistrate
    with 50 police kept order amongst this large force,
    which altogether totalled 8362 men, not including,
    as the inscription grimly states, the 900 souls
    who perished from fatigue, hunger, disease, or
    48 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    The supplies for this large expedition were
    transported in ten carts each drawn by six yoke
    of oxen ; and there were many porters laden with
    bread, meat, and various kinds of cakes. The
    inscription then tells us of the sacrifices which
    were continuously made to the gods of the desert.
    ” There were brought from Thebes the oblations
    for the satisfaction of the gods of heaven and
    earth. Bulls were slaughtered, calves were smitten,
    incense streamed to heaven, shedeh and wine was
    like a flood, beer flowed in this place. The voice
    of the ritual-priest presented these pure offerings
    to all the gods of the mountains so that their
    hearts were glad.”
    In this remote desert how easy it is to dream
    oneself back in the elder days ! The valley,
    pressed close on either side by the rocks around
    which the whispers for ever wander, echoes once
    again with the ring of the chisels ; and in the wind
    that almost ceaselessly rushes over the ancient
    tracks, one can see the fluttering garments of the
    quarrymen as they pass to and from their work.
    As we sat at the door of our tents in the cool of
    the afternoon, the present day seemed now as
    remote as the past had seemed before ; and, when
    that great moment of sunset was approached, one
    almost felt it fitting to burn a pan of incense to
    To the Quarries of Wady Hammamat. 49
    the old gods of heaven and earth, as the officers of
    Rameses IY. had done.
    The names of later kings, Shabaka, Taharka,
    Psametik, Nekau, Aahmes II. , and others, look
    down at one from the rocks ; and sometimes the
    date is precisely given, and the names of the
    officials are mentioned. During the Persian period
    the green tuff was in considerable demand for the
    making of those lifelike portrait statuettes so
    many of which are to be seen in the various
    museums ; and the coarser tuff, which is practically
    breccia, was much used for shrines and sarcophagi.
    It is curious to see in this distant valley the
    names of the Persian kings, Cambyses, Darius I.,

  • Xerxes I., and Artaxerxes L, written in Egyptian
    hieroglyphs in the rock inscriptions, together with
    the year of their reigns in which the quarrying
    was undertaken. Nectanebo I. and II., B.C. 370
    and B.C. 350, have left their names in the valley;
    and dating from this and the subsequent periods
    there are various Egyptian and Greek inscriptions.
    In the reign of Ptolemy III., B.C. 240, a little
    temple was built near the Bir Fowakhieh at the
    east end of the valley of the quarries. Wandering
    over this amphitheatre amidst the hills we came
    upon the remains of the little building, which had
    50 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    been constructed of rough stones augmented by
    well-made basalt columns. It was dedicated to
    the god Min, the patron of the Eastern Desert
    but as it was only about 12 feet by 22 in area the
    priests of the god could not have commanded the
    devotion of more than a few of the quarrymen.
    Near the temple there are three or four groups of
    ruined huts, nestling on the hillsides amongst the
    rocks ; and here the quarrymen of the Ptolemaic
    and Grseco – Roman ages dwelt, as the broken
    pottery indicates. There are many traces of
    ancient gold workings near by, and a ruined house
    of modern construction stands as a sad memorial
    of the unsuccessful attempt to reopen them. In
    the inscriptions of Dynasties XVIII. -XX. one
    reads of ” the gold of Koptos,” which must be the
    gold brought into Koptos from this neighbourhood
    ; and at this later period the mines appear
    to have been worked. A very fine pink granite
    began to be quarried just to the east of this well
    in Roman days, and one may still see many blocks
    cut from the hillside which have lain there these
    two thousand years awaiting transport.
    In Wady Fowakhieh itself there are many
    blocks of tuff, addressed to the Caesars, but never
    dispatched to them ; nor is there anything in this
    time -forsaken valley which so brings the past
    The camp in Wadi Fowakhieh, looking- down from
    the hills on the north side. The camel tracks
    are seen passing- along the valley.—Page 38.
    Wady Fowakhieh, looking east. The camel tracks will be noticed again.
    Pl. viii.

  • To the Quarries of Wady Hammamat. 51
    before one as do these blocks awaiting removal to
    vanished cities. There are many Greek inscriptions
    to be seen, the majority being grouped together
    in a recess amidst the rocks on the south
    side of the valley. Here one reads of persons wbo
    worked for Tiberius, Nero, Domitian, and other
    emperors ; and there are their drawings of men,
    animals, and boats before one, as fresh as when an
    hour at noon was whiled away in their making.
    From these the last days of the quarrying dates a
    causeway which passes up the hillside on the south
    of the valley, and which was intended to ease the
    descent of blocks quarried higher up. The Romans
    have also left watch-towers on the hill- tops, which
    indicate that peace did not always reign in the
    The night which closed in on us all too soon
    brought with it the silence of the very grave.
    The wind fell, and the whisperings almost ceased.
    The young moon which lit the valley seemed to
    turn all things to stone under its gaze ; and not a
    sound fell from the camelmen or from the camels.
    The evening meal having been eaten and the pipes
    smoked, we quietly slipped into our beds ; and
    when the moon had set behind the hills and absolute
    darkness had fallen upon the valley, one
    might have believed oneself as dead and as deep
    52 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    in the underworld as the kings whose names were
    inscribed upon the black rocks around.
    On the following morning we continued our
    journey eastwards towards the Red Sea, along
    the old trade route. This expedition forms a
    subject which will be treated by itself in the next
    chapter, and therefore one may here pass over the
    week occupied by the journey, and may resume
    the thread of the present narrative at the date
    when we set out from Wady Fowakhieh on our
    homeward way. The day was already hot as we
    trotted down the valley and past the Bir Hammamat,
    where, by the way, we put up another family
    of cream-coloured coursers. A couple of hours’
    trotting brought us to a cluster of sandstone rocks
    on the north of the now open and wide road, these
    having been passed in the dusk on the outward
    journey. Here I found one or two inscriptions in
    unknown letters, a few Egyptian graffiti, and a
    little Graeco-Roman shrine dedicated to the great
    god Min. On these rocks we ate our luncheon,
    and rested in the shade ; and in the early afternoon
    we mounted once more, passing the second
    Roman station half an hour later. A ride of two
    and a half hours brought us to the Hydreuma
    about sunset, and here we halted to smoke a pipe
    and stretch our legs. Then in the moonlight we
    To the Quarries of Wady Hammamat. 53
    rode on once more over the open desert, which
    stretched in hazy uncertainty as far as the eye
    could see. The oasis of Lageta was reached at
    about seven o’clock, and, the night having turned
    cold, we were glad to find the camp fires already
    brightly burning and the kettle merrily boiling.
    We were on the road again soon after sunrise,
    and, riding towards Koptos, about ten or twelve
    miles from Lagdta we passed another Roman enclosure
    now almost entirely destroyed. Our route
    now lay to the north of the hills of el Gorn, the
    south side of which we had seen on our outward
    journey ; and after three and a half hours’ riding
    we came into sight of the distant Nile valley.
    The thin line of green trees seemed in the mirage
    to be swimming in water, as though the period of
    the inundation were upon us again. At the point
    where this view is first obtained there are some
    low hills on the south side of the tracks, and in
    one of these there is a small red-ochre quarry.
    The sandstone is veined with ochre, and the
    quarry had been opened for the purpose of obtaining
    this material for the making of red paint
    but whether the few red markings on the rocks
    are ancient or mediaeval one cannot say. Here
    we ate an early luncheon, and about noon we rode
    on over the sun-bathed plain down to the cultiva54
    Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    tion. Leaving the desert our road passed between
    the fields towards the Nile ; and by two o’clock we
    reached the picturesque village of Quft, which
    marks the site of the ancient Koptos. We spent
    the afternoon in wandering over the ruins of the
    once famous caravanserai, and in the evening we

  • took the train back to Luxor.
    Such are the quarries of Hammamat, and such
    is the road to them. It is a simple journey, and
    one able to be undertaken by any active person
    who will take the trouble to order a few camels
    from Keneh. There will come a time when one
    will travel to the quarries by automobile, for even
    the present road is hard-surfaced enough to permit
    of that form of locomotion, and with a little doctoring
    it will be not far from perfection. A place such
    as this wonderful valley, with its whispers and its
    echoes, seems to beckon to the curious to come, if
    only to be lost for awhile in the soothing solitudes
    and moved by the majestic beauty of the hills.
    To those interested in the olden days the rocks
    hold out an invitation which one is surprised to
    find so seldom responded to ; but let any one feel
    for an hour the fine freedom of the desert, and see
    for an hour the fantasy of the hills, and that
    invitation will not again be so lightly set aside.
    Abandoned sarcophagus on the hillside in Wady Fowakhieh.—Page 38.
    ‘ /ft
    «m if
    A typical valley near Wady Fowakhieh
    Pl. ix.

    To the Quarries of Wady Hammamat. 55
    On camel or automobile he will make his way
    over the ancient tracks to the dark valley of the
    quarries ; and there he will remain entranced, just
    as we, until the business of life calls him back to

    CTV €
    nAC^KAIC^ POC a enkcpKMCAPoc

    The Red Sea Highroad. 61
    harbour, however, was so poor that a new port
    and town was constructed some five miles to the
    north, where a natural bay was easily able to be
    improved into a very fair harbour. This new town
    was named Philoteras, in honour of the sister of
    Ptolemy Philadelphos (b.c. 285), while the older
    port was now known as Aennum by foreigners,
    though to the Egyptians both towns were called
    Duau. I was fortunate enough to find some blocks
    of a Ptolemaic temple at the older Kossair, and on
    one of them was the name Duau, followed by the
    hieroglyph representing a town written twice to
    indicate the existence of the two ports. Not infrequently
    one finds at Koptos and elsewhere short
    inscriptions of this period relating to journeys
    made along this route to Kossair, and thence
    over the high seas. One example may here
    be quoted : “To the most high goddess Isis, for
    a fair voyage for the ship Serapis, Hermaeus
    dedicates this.”
    I must be permitted to give in full a very interesting
    tariff of taxes imposed on persons using the
    road during the Roman occupation, which was
    found in a ruined guard-house just behind Koptos,
    at the beginning of the highway. It reads as
    follows :

    62 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    By Order of the Governor of Egypt.—The dues which
    the lessees of the transport service in Koptos, subject
    to the Arabian command, are authorised to levy by
    the customary scale, are inscribed on this tablet at the
    instance of L. Antistius Asiaticus, Prefect of the Eed
    Sea slope.
    For a Eed Sea helmsman .
    „ „ bowsman .
    „ an able seaman .
    „ a shipyard hand .
    „ a skilled artisan .
    „ a woman for prostitution
    „ „ immigrant .
    „ a wife of a soldier
    „ a camel ticket
    „ sealing of said ticket .
    „ each ticket for the husband, if mounted,
    when a caravan is leaving
    „ all his women, at the rate of
    „ a donkey ….
    „ a waggon with tilt .
    „ a ship’s mast . . .
    The ninth year of the Emperor Csesar Domitian Augustus
    Germanicus on the 15th of the month of May.
    In the above tariff it will be seen that the
    persons or articles on which taxes were levied
    were such as one might expect to have passed
    between the Nile and the sea ; and only those
    items concerning women seem to call for explana-
    . drachmas
    The Red Sea Highroad. 63
    tion. The very large tax imposed upon prostitutes
    must indicate that Indian or Arabian females
    coming into Egypt along this route, and liable
    to bring with them the evils of the East, could
    only be admitted when they were of the richest
    and, consequently, best and highest class. Such
    women were always taxed in the Roman Empire,
    and in this regard a rather humorous story is told
    in Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tyana.
    That holy man was accosted by a tax-collector
    when about to cross the Euphrates, and was asked
    his wares. He replied with the somewhat banal
    remark that he had with him Soj^hrosune kai
    Dikaiosiine kai ‘Andreia—” Temperance, Righteousness,
    and Courage.” The official at once
    assessed these as Doittas, ” Female slaves,” and
    would have taxed them as prostitutes, had not
    the prophet hastily corrected him by saying that
    they were not Doiilas but Despoinas, “Ladies
    of the House”! The “wives of soldiers” mentioned
    in the tariff shows that Mommsen was
    right in stating that the rule of the emperors
    was laxer in Egypt than elsewhere, for before
    the time of Severus it was not possible for
    legionaries to contract legal marriages while on
    active service ; but in Egypt the marriages were
    so far recognised that the wives could be taxed
    64 Travels in Upper Egypt desert safari .
    as such, and the children could be enrolled as
    During mediaeval times this Bed Sea highroad
    was much used by traders, but its river terminus
    was now removed from Koptos to Kus, a town
    a few miles farther up-stream, which soon became
    second only to Cairo in size and wealth. A
    pottery figure of Buddha, some mediaeval Chinese
    vases, and a few Arabian antiquities, found in
    Upper Egypt, are records of the use of this route
    at that time. In later days the terminus again
    shifted to Keneh, a few miles to the north of
    Koptos, and to that town there still come Arabian
    traders from across the Red Sea, and pilgrims
    sometimes use it as the base of the journey to
    From Wady Fowakhleh our party set out along
    this highroad at about 7 a.m. on a bracing
    morning in November. From Bir Fowakhieh the
    road branched off to the right along a fine valley,
    shut in by hills fantastic in shape and colour.
    Clustering on either side of the path for some
    distance there were groups of huts, and in the
    hillsides there were traces of gold mines long since
    abandoned. The road beneath one was hard, flat,
    and blue-grey in colour, as though some mighty
    torrent had brought down masses of gravel and
    The Red Sea Highroad. 65
    had laid it level over the bottom of the valley.
    Gradually it sloped upwards, and as the hills drew
    in on either side one felt that the highest point
    of the whole road was soon to be reached. We
    were already half-way between the Nile and the
    sea, and so far there had been a continuous slope
    upwards, so gradual as to be almost imperceptible.
    The valley now twisted and turned narrowly between
    the dark hills, and the gravel bed became
    humped and banked up where the early waters had
    raced down some narrow gauge and had churned
    themselves through a natural basin into the wide
    bed beyond. The cold wind beat in our faces as
    we trotted up the narrowing valley, and the sun
    had not yet gained much power when, after a ride
    of two hours, we reached the rugged pass which
    forms the apex of the route.
    The scenery here is superb. The pathway, such
    as it is, threads its way through a cluster of great
    grey boulders tumbled into the few yards’ width
    between the rocks of the hillside, so that on foot
    one may jump from stone to stone up the whole
    length of the pass, and on camelback one has to
    twist and turn, rise and descend, until the saddlestraps
    come near to bursting. Amidst the rocks
    there is a well, known as Bir es Sid, which may
    have been opened in ancient times, perhaps by the
    66 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    redoubtable Henu. A few natives were encamped
    near by, and not far away their goats were to be
    seen in the charge of a small girl, whose dark dress
    fluttering in the wind caught one’s eye amidst
    the pale grey of rocks and the cold blue of the
    Riding on for another two hours we reached an
    open ridge from which an extraordinary prospect of
    rolling hills and innumerable humps was obtained.
    On the left of the pathway there was a hill at the
    top of which stood a ruined Roman watch-tower,
    one of a chain of such posts which crowned the
    higher peaks all along the route. Up this hill
    we scrambled on foot, and climbed the tower at
    the summit, burning a pipeful of tobacco to the
    gods of Contentment thereon. The array of hills
    around us, as closely packed and yet as individual
    as the heads of a vast crowd of people, were of
    a wonderful hue in the morning light. Those
    to the north were a dead grey, those to the east
    were pink and mauve, and those to the south
    every shade of rich brown, while the shadows
    throughout were of the deepest blue. The wind
    tore past us as we sat contemplating the fair world
    at our feet, and two black ravens sailed by on it to
    take stock of us. Far below the path wound its
    way through the humps ; and in the distance the
    Bir es Sid, the well at the highest point of the Red Sea highroad.—Page 65.
    The Roman fortress of Abu Zerah, looking south-east.—Page 67.
    Pl. xi.

    The Red Sea Highroad. 67
    peaks and spires of the darker rocks into which
    it penetrated bounded the scene, and hid the sea
    from view.
    Mounting the camels once more we denied
    down the steep path, and for a time were lost
    amidst the hills. We lunched an hour later in
    more open country ; and riding on afterwards for
    somewhat over two hours we reached the B,oman
    station of Abu Zerah, which lies in the plain at
    the foot of a range of fine purple hills. As is
    usual in these buildings, the station consists of a
    rectangular enclosure, the wall being still some
    twelve feet in height in parts. The door-posts of
    the main entrance are made of sandstone, and
    upon one of them is the almost obliterated Latin
    inscription : SER . . . INY. . . . There are
    several rooms inside the enclosure, built against
    the wall, a space being left open in the middle.
    Just to the north there are a few graves, around
    which some broken pottery of Roman date lies
    A ride of less than an hour brought us to
    another Roman station known as Hosh el Homra,
    ” the Red Enclosure,” where we only halted for a
    moment or so in order to ascertain that there was
    no unique feature in this building. In the afternoon
    light the scene was of great beauty. Range
    68 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    upon range of hills surrounded us, which assumed
    a thousand varying colours : pink, rose, purple,
    blue, and olive-green in the foreground. Spires of
    rock shot up to a soft sky in which floated the
    already visible moon, and overhead seven black
    ravens soared past upon the wind. Soon the sun
    went down, and, resting in the lee of a group of
    dark rocks, we watched the pageant of colours
    go by and waited for the baggage camels to
    come up.
    The journey was resumed at an early hour next
    morning, and after a trot of about three-quarters
    of an hour we reached the well and Roman station
    of Hagi Suliman. The ancient well, lying within
    the enclosing wall, has been restored in modern
    times, and upon a tablet let into the wall is rudely
    written: “Briggs, Hancock, and “Wood, 1832.

    At this point the road is joined by another from
    the north-west, along which we made our return
    journey to Bir Fowakhieh by way of Wady el Esh
    and Wady Adolla. From Bir Hagi Suliman to
    Bir Fowakhieh by this route is a trot of about six
    hours. The morning was bitterly cold, and the
    wind swinging up the valley chilled one to the
    bone. The tracks led now this way and now that,
    around sharp corners where the wind buffeted one
    suddenly, across patches of sunlight where there
    The Red Sea Highroad. 69
    was some hope of warmth, and then again up
    shaded valleys where one might see an occasional
    wagtail or sand-martin puffing its feathers
    out against the cold airs. A trot of two and a
    half hours brought us to yet another Roman ruin,
    called El Litemah. Here there is as usual an
    enclosing wall surrounding an area in which several
    chambers are built and a well is dug. The doorposts
    of the entrance are made of sandstone, and
    some Cufic inscriptions are written upon one of
    these by travellers in the middle ages. As we
    entered the building a number of sand-grouse rose
    from the midst of the ruins and went off to the
    north, their swift flight being visible for some time
    against a background of pale limestone hills, which
    told of our approach to the sea. Near here we
    passed a party of Arabian traders, some riding
    camels and others walking. A more evil-looking
    set of men I have seldom seen, and as they eyed
    us and whispered together one felt that some mischief
    was afoot. It was therefore not surprising
    to learn when we returned to the Nile that a
    caravan had been attacked with considerable
    bloodshed at about that place and time, by
    Arabians answering to this description.
    An hour and quarter later we emerged from the
    hills into an open plain in which the well known
    70 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    as Bir el Ingliz is situated. This well was dug by
    English troops at the beginning of the nineteenth
    century, during operations against Napoleon’s
    generals, of which further mention will be made.
    A few Ababdeh natives were here encamped, and
    hastened to draw water for our thirsty camels,
    begging a cigarette as a reward for the labour.
    In the shade of some rocks to the south-east we
    partook of our luncheon. The seat which I selected
    for myself proved to be that chosen by a prehistoric
    hunter some sixty centuries ago, for upon the
    face of the rock beside it there is a rude archaic
    drawing of a man holding a bow. Two French
    soldiers of 1799 have here written their names

    Forcard and Materon—which remain as memorials
    of a page of history little remembered at the
    present time.
    In the afternoon we trotted over open desert
    and through shady valleys for about the space of
    an hour, at the end of which we reached the spring
    known as Bir Ambagi, situated in a fine wady,
    with grey-green cliffs on either hand and pink
    limestone hills ahead. In this fair setting there
    grew the greenest reeds and rushes amidst pools
    of the bluest water. A few Ababdeh goats grazed
    across the valley, bleating merrily as they went
    and not a few birds added their notes to the
    The Red Sea Highroad. 71
    happy fluting of the wind, which, blowing from
    over-seas, seemed to set the rushes nodding to
    ” songs of Araby and tales of old Cashmere.”
    Leaving this valley we travelled down a rather
    dull wash-out sloping towards the sea, which at
    length opened sufficiently to show us a glimpse of
    the blue water. There is always something which
    penetrates to the heart in one’s first view of the
    sea after an interval of months ; and now, the
    eyes having accustomed themselves to the barren
    desert, the old wonder came upon one with new
    weapons, and attacked the senses with new
    vigour. One might have shouted for the sheer
    pleasure of it ; and when, presently, a group of
    green palms passed into view lit by the afternoon
    sun, and stood between the sand and the sea, one
    felt to the full the power of the assault.
    As the hills fell back on either side we passed
    on to the wide, flat beach and headed our camels
    towards the blue sea, dismounting at last a
    hundred yards from the rippling water. Except
    for the slow pulse of the waves there was an
    unbroken silence over the world. Southwards the
    sand stretched to the foot of the hills, beyond
    which rose the dreamy peaks of the Tourquoise
    Mountains ; northwards the little town of Kossair
    lay basking in the sunlight ; to the west the dark
    72 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    hills through which we had passed stood waiting
    breathlessly to surround the setting sun ; and to
    the east the wonderful sea seemed quietly to be
    sleeping and sighing in its sleep. Had one stumbled
    against the slumbering forms of the lotoseaters
    themselves one would hardly have felt
    surprise ; for here one might suppose that one
    was in a land ” where it was always afternoon,” a
    land ” where all things always seemed the same.”
    In the little bay, or high and dry upon the sand,
    lay vessels of a bygone age—two-masted hulks
    with high ponderous sterns. Beside them one
    could just discern two men fast asleep ; and had
    one awakened them there seemed hardly a doubt
    that they would have been found to be as mildeyed
    and melancholy as the men of Tennyson’s
    Presently, as we sat listening to the sea, the
    sun set, and from the minaret of a mosque in the
    town a boy called to the sleepy Faithful their
    daily summons to prayer. His voice drifting to
    us on the quiet air was the first human sound
    which had risen from the little town ; but hardly
    had it died away before the distant sound of voices,
    and the grunts of camels, warned us of the arrival
    of our baggage. A few figures sauntered idly out
    of the town to watch us, as the tents were pitched
    The Red Sea Highroad. 73
    on the beach ; and thus the dream was broken, and
    we awoke, as it were, to the knowledge that once
    more a human habitation had been reached and
    officials had to be interviewed.
    A note to the Maltese Mudir or governor of
    the town brought that gentleman speedily to our
    tents, obviously pleased almost to tears to have
    the opportunity of relieving for an hour the
    utter boredom of his existence. The Mudir is an
    enforced lotos – eater. Corpulent of figure, and
    suffering the discomforts of a wall-eye ; having
    practically no duties to perform other than those
    of the brief official routine ; and having no European
    to talk to except his wife, his little daughter,
    and an Austrian mechanic, there is nothing left
    for him to do but to dream of the time when a
    benevolent government shall transfer him to a less
    isolated post. The four of us will not soon forget
    the ample figure of our guest, clad in white duck,
    as he sat upon the edge of our one real chair in
    the candle-light, and told us in disused English
    how little there is to tell regarding a man’s life in
    this sleepy town. There was never a more desolate
    smile than that which wreathed his face as he
    spoke of the ennui of life, nor a braver twinkle
    than that which glinted in his single eye as the
    humour of his misfortunes touched him ; and
    74 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    though we should meet again in many a merrier
    situation—for officials are not left over long at
    Kossair—none of us will cease to picture this uncomplaining
    servant of the government as, with
    unsmoked cigarette and untasted whisky-and-soda,
    he told us that evening the meaning of four years
    of exile.
    Kossair, when he first entered upon his duties,
    was a town of 1500 inhabitants ; but these persons
    were so miserably poor, and found so little to do,
    that at their own request the government transported
    about a thousand of them to Suez and the
    neighbourhood, where the lotos does not grow and
    a man has to keep awake. Now there are but 500
    souls in the town, 300 of whom are women and
    children. These people wed very young, and there
    is much family intermarriage ; but, though they
    are a poor lot to look at, there is little mental
    degeneracy which can be traced to this cause.
    The Mudir, who is also in charge of the coastguards,
    is responsible for law and order in Kossair
    there is a Syrian doctor in charge of the government
    dispensary ; the above-mentioned Austrian
    mechanic looks after the engine for distilling the
    salt water ; a coastguard officer and three men
    patrol the coast ; four or five sailors are attached
    to the port ; and a native schoolmaster teaches the
    T3 MD
    H i
    iu =^
    “9 =
    Pl. xii.

    The Red Sea Highroad. 75
    children to read and write : this constitutes the
    official element in the town. The inhabitants are
    all either of Arab or Ababdeh stock, Egyptians
    being entirely wanting. They live mainly on fish
    and a little imported bread ; but before the population
    was reduced some of the poorer families were
    actually eating chopped straw and other food fit
    only for animals.
    There is very little to be done here, and most of
    the inhabitants sleep for two-thirds of the day. A
    fast-diminishing trade necessitates the occasional
    building or mending of a boat. This trade is done
    with camels and goats, which are brought across
    from Arabia and are led over the desert to the Nile,
    where they are sold at Keneh or elsewhere, the
    money being partly expended on grain, which is
    then carried back to Arabia. Pilgrims on the way
    to and from Mecca use these vessels occasionally,
    but the mariners of Kossair cannot be bothered to
    extend the tariff.
    Except for one small group of palms there is
    absolutely no vegetation whatsoever in the neighbourhood,
    and even an attempt to grow a few
    bushes or flowers near the governor’s quarters,
    though carefully persisted in for some time, proved
    an utter failure. For his supplies the Mudir is
    entirely dependent on the arrival of the govern76
    Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    merit steamer every second month ; and if, as had
    happened at the time of our visit, this steamer was
    late, the unfortunate gentleman becomes comparatively
    thin from sheer starvation. Except for
    occasional travellers or prospectors no white men
    ever visit Kossair ; though if there is cholera at
    Mecca an English doctor is sometimes sent to prevent
    the disease from passing into Egypt along this
    route. Letters and telegrams are every week conveyed
    across the desert by an express rider to
    Keneh, and an answer to a telegram might be
    expected in about a week.
    A large sea-water distillery, set up some twelve
    or fourteen years ago, provides the town with pure
    water; but so few are the inhabitants that it is
    only worked twice a month. This good supply of
    water is largely responsible for the lack of sickness
    in the town. During the last four years only
    twenty persons have died, and of these ten were
    very young children and ten very old people.
    During these years the serious illnesses have only
    consisted of two cases of diphtheria : there has
    been no cholera, enteric, dysentery, or plague.
    Many of the inhabitants live to be centenarians,
    and in the town we saw several tottering old
    Methuselahs, who looked as though the gods of
    the underworld had forgotten them utterly.
    The Red Sea Highroad. 77
    Of sports there are none for the Mudir to indulge
    in. There is no shooting ; he cannot bathe even if
    he desired to, because of the sharks ; there are no
    boats to sail in worthy the names ; he cannot leave
    his post to make camel trips to interesting localities,
    even if that amused him, which it does not
    and the one pastime, the catching of crayfish on
    the coral reefs, bores him to distraction. The
    climate is so monotonously perfect that it does not
    form a topic even of thought : in winter it is mild
    and sunny, in summer it is mild and sunnier. It is
    never very cold nor very hot, except for the few
    days in summer when a hot east wind is blowing.
    The Mudir says that he neither increases nor decreases
    the amount of his clothing the whole year
    round, but always he wears his underclothes, his
    tight white – duck tunic, his loose white – duck
    trousers, his elastic-sided boots, and his red tarbush
    or fez.
    After breakfast next morning we walked along
    the beach to the stiff, mustard-coloured government
    buildings, which stand on a point of land
    projecting somewhat into the sea. A spick-andspan
    pier and quay, ornamented with three or four
    old French cannon and some neat piles of cannonballs,
    gave us the impression that we had been
    transported suddenly to a second – rate English
    78 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    watering-place ; but passing into the building that
    impression was happily removed at once. Through
    the sunny courtyard we went, and up the stair,
    saluted at intervals by the coastguardsmen, who
    had donned their best uniforms for the occasion,
    and at last we were ushered into the presence of
    our Maltese friend, now seated in state at his office
    table at the far end of a large airy room. The
    windows overlooked the glorious blue sea, and the
    breath of an English summer drifted into the room,
    bringing with it the sigh of the waves. Nothing
    could have been more entrancing than the soft air
    and the sun-bathed scene, but to the Mudir it was
    anathema, and his back was resolutely turned to
    the windows.
    After coffee and a brief conversation we were
    taken to see the water distillery, of which the
    town is immensely proud ; and from thence we
    were conducted to the chief mosque of the place, a
    picturesque old building which has seen better days.
    We were readily admitted by the Reader, who,
    however, turned up the grass matting which
    covered the floor in order, so the Mudir said, that
    our feet might not be dirtied by it, but in reality
    in order that the footstep of a Christian should not
    defile it. A few men were praying languidly at
    one side of the building, and in the opposite corner
    The Red Sea Highroad. 79
    a man lay snoring upon his back. There was the
    silence of sleep upon the place, and, returning to
    the almost deserted lanes between the houses outside,
    there was hardly a sound to disturb the stillness
    of the morning. In the bazaar a few people
    were gathered around the two or three shops, at
    which business had nigh ceased. A limp-limbed
    jeweller was attempting to sell a rough silver ring
    to a yawning youth, and, if I am not mistaken, a
    young girl who watched the transaction with very
    mild interest from the opposite side of the road
    was to be the recipient of the jewel. Soon we
    passed the open door of the schoolroom, where a
    dozen children chanted their A B C in a melancholy
    minor ; and presently we came to the chief
    sight of Kossair—the old fortress built by the
    French at the end of the eighteenth century.
    One enters the building through a masonry
    archway, closed by a heavy wooden door clamped
    with iron. There are still three or four cannon
    inside it to tell of its past life, but now the rooms
    and courts are whitewashed and are used as camel
    stables by the coastguards. I have no books here
    in Upper Egypt which will tell me the details of
    the Anglo-French struggle for the possession of
    Kossair, and I must therefore leave it to my
    readers to correct my ignorant statements. It
    80 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    appears, then, that a French force occupied the
    fortress during the time of Napoleon’s rule in
    Egypt, and that one fine day in the year 1800
    there came sailing over the sea a squadron of
    English men-o’-war, which landed a storming party
    so formidable that the French were constrained to
    evacuate the place and to retreat across the desert
    to Keneh. With the English force there were
    a large body of Indian troops, and these were
    marched across to the Nile in pursuit of the
    French ; but ere more serious operations had taken
    place the capitulation of Napoleon’s army brought
    the campaign to a close. It is said that when the
    Indian soldiers saw representation of the sacred
    cow of Hathor upon the walls of the temples of
    Koptos and Kus, they fell upon their knees and
    did obeisance as in their own temples.
    The inhabitants of Kossair live to such an age
    and in such stagnation that the stirring events of
    these old days are still talked of, and Englishmen
    are here still endowed with the prestige of conquerors.
    Involuntarily one held one’s head higher
    as an old Shekh pointed out the gate through
    which the French fled, and that through which the
    English bluejackets entered ; and, walking through
    the quiet streets back to the tents, one gave a
    nautical hitch to the trousers, talked contemptuKossair.
    Arabian boats on the beach.—Page 72.
    A street in Kossair.
    Pl. xiii.

    The Red Sea Highroad. 81
    ously of ” Boney,” discussed the plans of Lord
    Nelson, named the yawning natives whom we
    passed ” lazy lubbers,” murmured ” Shiver my
    timbers,” called one another “me hearty,” and,
    in a word, acted faithlessly to the entente cordiale.
    In camp the remainder of the day was spent in
    that vague pottering which the presence of the sea
    always induces. There were some beautiful shells
    upon the shore to attract one, and natives brought
    others for sale, lying down to sleep in the shade of
    the kitchen tent until we deigned to give them
    attention. There were sketches to be made and
    photographs to be taken. Amidst the houses at
    the south end of the town some fragments of a
    Ptolemaic temple were stumbled upon, and the
    inscriptions thereon had to be copied. These were
    too fragmentary to be of much importance, and,
    except for the above-mentioned ancient name of
    Kossair there written, no point of particular
    interest requires to be noted here. We lunched
    and dined off the most excellent fish, a species
    named belbul being particularly palatable, while
    crayfish and a kind of cockles were immoderately
    indulged in. Having arranged to try our hand at
    the catching of crayfish during the night hours, we
    turned in early to sleep for a short time until the
    fishermen should call us.
    82 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    The summons having come at about 11 p.m., we
    set out along the moonlit shore, two fishermen and
    a boy accompanying us, carrying nets and lanterns.
    Our destination was a spot at which the coral
    reefs, projecting into the sea, presented so flat a
    surface that the incoming tide would wash over
    the whole area at a depth of not more than a few
    inches. In the shallow water, we were told, the
    crayfish would crawl, attracted by our lanterns,
    and we could then pick them up with our fingers.
    These crayfish are not at first sight distinguishable
    from larger lobsters, though a second glance will
    show that the difference lies in the fact that they
    have no claws, and therefore can be caught with
    impunity. They are fearsome-looking creatures,
    nevertheless, often measuring twenty inches or so
    from head to tail. In eating them it is hard to
    believe that one is not eating the most tasty of
    A tedious walk of over three miles somewhat
    damped our ardour ; and as the fishermen told us
    that the moon was too high and the tide too low
    for good hunting, we were not in the best spirits
    when at last we turned on to the coral reef. Here,
    however, the scene was so weirdly picturesque that
    the catching of the crayfish became a matter of
    secondary import. The surface of the reef, though
    The Red Sea Highroad. 83
    flat, was broken and jagged, and much seaweed
    grew upon it. In the uncertain light of the moon
    it was difficult to walk without stumbling; but
    the ghostly figures of the fishermen hovered in
    front of us, and silently led the way out towards
    the sea, which uttered continuously a kind of
    sobbing as it washed over the edges of the
    coral reef. This and the unholy wail of the
    curlews were the only sounds, for the fishermen
    had imposed silence upon us, and the moonlight
    furthered their wishes.
    As we walked over the reef we had to pick our
    way between several small patches of water some
    five or six feet in breadth, which appeared to be
    shallow pools left by the last tide in the slight
    depressions of the rock. Presently one noticed
    that in these pools white clouds appeared to be
    reflected from the sky, but quickly looking up one
    saw that the heavens were cloudless. Staring
    closer at the water, it suddenly dawned upon one
    that these white clouds were in reality the sand at
    the bottom of the pools, and as suddenly came the
    discovery that that bottom lay at a depth of fifteen
    feet or more. Now one went on hands and knees
    to gaze down at those moonlit depths, and one
    realised that each pool was a great globular cavern,
    the surface area being but the small mouth of it.
    84 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    One found oneself kneeling on a projecting ridge
    of coral which was deeply undermined all round ;
    and, looking down into the bowl, one was reminded
    of nothing so much as of an aquarium tank seen
    through glass. In the moonlight the cloudy
    bottom of the caverns could be discerned, whereon
    grew great anemones and the fair flowers of the
    sea. Sometimes an arched gallery, suffused with
    pale light, led from one cavern to the next, the
    ceiling of these passages decorated with dim
    plants, the floor with coloured shells. Not easily
    could one have been carried so completely into the
    realms of Fairyland as one was by the gazing at
    these depths. Presently there sailed through the
    still water the dim forms of fishes, and now through
    the galleries there moved two shining lamps, as
    though carried by the little men of the sea to light
    them amidst the anemones. Two more small
    lamps passed into the cavern and floated through
    the water, now glowing amidst the tendrils of the
    sea plants, now rising towards the surface, and
    now sinking again to the shells, the sand, and the
    flowers at the bottom.
    It was not at once that one could bring oneself
    to realise that these lights were the luminous eyes
    of a strange fish, the name of which I do not
    know ; but now the fishermen, who had suddenly
    The Red Sea Highroad. 85
    drawn their net across the edge of the reef and
    had driven a dozen leaping creatures on to the
    exposed rock, beckoned us to look at this curious
    species at close quarters. Their bodies were transparent,
    and from around their mouths many filmy
    tentacles waved. The eyes were large and brown
    in colour, and appeared as fantastic stone orbs set
    in a glass body. Many other varieties of fish were
    caught as the tide came in ; but it appeared that
    the moon was too powerful for successful sport in
    regard to the crayfish, and the catch consisted of
    but four of these. The sight of the fairy caverns,
    however, was entertainment sufficient for one
    night ; and it was with discontent that one turned
    away from these fair kingdoms of the sea to return
    in the small hours of the morning to the tents.
    The moonlight, the sobbing of the ocean, the deep
    caverns lit by unearthly lamps, left an impression
    of unreality upon the mind which it was not easy
    to dispel ; and one felt that a glance had been
    vouchsafed through the forbidden gates, and a
    glimpse had been obtained of scenes unthought
    of since the days of one’s childhood. Had we also
    tasted of the lotos, and was this but one of the
    dreams of dreamy Kossair \
    Upon the following day I rode northwards along
    the coast to visit the site of the Ptolemaic port,
    86 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    which lies about five miles from the modern town.
    An hour’s ride against a hard wind brought us to
    the little inlet, around which the mounds and
    potsherds of the town are scattered. The water
    in the bay was of the deepest blue ; a rolling plain
    of yellow sand lay eastwards, backed by the darker
    ranges of mountains ; and overhead the white
    clouds raced by. The sea washed up in a line
    of white breakers on to a rising bar of sand, sparkling
    with a thousand varieties of shells. Behind
    this bar there were pools of water passing inland,
    and here there may have been an artificial harbour.
    On the south side of the bay bold rocks jutted into
    the sea, and on the north there rose a series of
    mounds upon which the remains of the old town
    were strewn. Walking over these mounds, where
    the rhythmic roar of the waves falls continuously
    upon the ears, one’s mind was filled with thoughts
    of the ancient port which has so utterly fallen, and
    of that ancient commerce with the East which must
    have been so full of adventure and romance to the
    men of old. Here from these mounds the townspeople
    have watched the great galleys set out over
    the seas for the mysterious land of Hind, and have
    seen the wealth of Pount and Arabia unloaded
    upon the quay ; and here so many centuries later
    the labours of Egyptologists are beginning to perThe
    interior of the mosque at Kossair.—Page 78.
    The main entrance of the fortress at Kossair.—Page 79.
    Pl. XIV

    The Red Sea Highroad. 87
    mit one to recall something of what they saw,
    though the spade of the excavator has not yet
    touched this site.
    There are two wells within reach of this spot,
    but both are two or three hours’ journey away,
    and the water question must have been a serious
    one. The well to the north is named Bir Guah,
    and the other to the west is called Bir Mahowatat.
    This latter is the name of a tribe
    of Bedwin living at Suez, who state that they
    came originally from El Wij in Arabia. It is
    interesting to find that a well here should be
    named after them, for El Wij is nearly opposite
    this point, and one may realise thus what intercourse
    there is and always has been between
    Arabia and Egypt, even as far south as Kossair.
    Returning with the wind at our backs we soon
    reached Kossair, and rode through the streets of
    the sleepy town to our tents. To tea in the afternoon
    came the Mudir, who for an hour or so entertained
    us with tales of ennu i. Kossair fell asleep
    when the Boman Empire fell, awoke for a moment
    in the days of Napoleon, but slid into slumber once
    more over a century ago. There was a time when
    the east coast steamers used to call here, but now
    even they have left the town to its long siesta.
    As one listened to the story of decaying trade and
    88 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    languid idleness the vision of Tennyson’s lotoseater
    was ever in the mind ; and one’s sympathy
    was as profound for an official stationed here as
    was one’s envy of the man who might be permitted
    to rest himself for awhile from his labours upon
    this mild, sunny shore. The Mudir was, at the
    time of our visit, anxiously awaiting the tardy
    arrival of the steamer which was to take him
    and his family to Suez for three months’ leave,
    and his eye fixed itself upon the sea at every
    pause in the conversation ; and when he bid us
    farewell at the door of the tent, it was but to
    return to his own doorway, where he might
    watch for the distant smoke until the sun should
    Early next morning we commenced the return
    journey to the Nile. As we rode away over the
    sloping sand towards the hills in the west we
    turned in our saddles to obtain a last view of
    the strange little dream-town which was sinking
    so surely to its death. The quiet sea rippled upon
    the sunlit shore in one long line of blue from the
    houses on the north to the Tourquoise Mountains
    on the south. Not a trace of smoke nor a sound
    rose from the town. On the beach a group of
    three men lay sleeping with their arms behind
    their heads, while two others crouched languidly
    The Red Sea Highroad. 89
    on their haunches watching our disappearing
    cavalcade. Then, in the silence of the morning,
    there came to us on the breeze the soft call to
    prayer from the minaret of the mosque. One
    could not hear the warbled words ; but to the
    sleeping figures on the beach, one thought, they
    must surely be akin to those of the song of the
    lotos -eaters :

    ” How sweet it were, hearing the downward stream,
    “With half-shut eyes ever to seem
    Falling asleep in a half-dream !
    To hear each other’s whispered speech
    Eating the lotos day by day,
    To watch the crisping ripples on the beach,
    j^nd tender curving lines of creamy spray;
    To lend our hearts and spirits wholly
    To the influence of mild-minded melancholy. …”
    On the quay in the far distance we could just
    discern a portly white figure gazing steadfastly
    out to sea to catch the first glimpse of the
    steamer which had been awaited so patiently
    for so long.
    Those who have travelled in Italy, and, in the
    museums and in the ruins there, have studied
    the sculpture and the architectural accessories of
    the Roman Imperial age, will be familiar with
    that magnificent purple stone known as Imperial
    Porphyry. It was one of the most highly prized
    of the ornamental stones employed by the great
    artists and architects of that age of luxury ; and
    the great distance which it had to be brought,
    over parched deserts and perilous seas, must have
    sent its price up beyond the reach of all save
    the rulers of the earth.
    The quarries from which this porphyry was
    obtained are situated in the region known as
    Gebel Dukhan, “the Hills of Smoke,” in the
    Eastern Egyptian Desert, some twenty – seven
    miles from the Red Sea, opposite the southern
    end of the Peninsula of Sinai. Two or three

    The start from Keneh. Native police loading- the camels.—Page 91
    Midday rest at El Ghaiteh. Camels feeding from the bushes.—Page 96.
    PL. xv.

    The Imperial Porphyry Quarries. 91
    travellers during the last century have visited
    them, and recently the Survey Department of
    the Egyptian Government has published a technical
    report on the whole district ; but with the
    exception of this and an article by the German
    explorer Schweinfurth, the literature on the subject,
    such as it is, seems to be more or less untraceable.
    In 1887 a gentleman of the name of
    Brindley obtained a concession there for the reworking
    of the quarries, but the project fell
    through owing to the difficulties of transporting
    the stone. In 1907 Mr John Wells, the Director
    of the now defunct Department of Mines, decided
    to make an expedition to Gebel Dukhan to report
    on the possibilities of reopening the old works
    and it was with considerable pleasure that I
    received, and found myself able to accept, his
    invitation to accompany him, in order to see how
    far the Department of Antiquities could concur
    in the projects of modern engineers.
    We set out from Keneh, a town on the Nile
    some 400 miles above Cairo, in the middle of
    March : a time of year when one cannot be sure
    of good weather in Egypt, for the winter and the
    summer together fight for the mastery, and the
    hot south winds vie with the cold north winds in
    ferocity. Sand-storms are frequent in the desert
    92 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    in this month, and these, though seldom dangerous,
    can be extremely disagreeable. We were, however,
    most fortunate in this respect ; and, in spite
    of the fact that the winds were strong, I do not
    recall any particular discomfort experienced from
    them, though memory brings back the not rare
    vision of men struggling with flapping tents and
    flying ropes. Our caravan consisted of some fifty
    camels, of which about thirty -five carried the
    baggage and water ; a dozen were ridden by ourselves,
    Mr Wells’ police, our native assistants, and
    others ; and two or three belonged to the Shekh
    and the guides.
    The business of setting out is always trying to
    the patience. The camelmen attempt to load
    their beasts lightly in order that more may be
    employed ; they dawdle over the packing that
    the day’s journey may be short ; the camels,
    unused to their burdens, perform such antics as
    may rid them the most quickly of the incubus
    the untried ropes break as the last knot is tied,
    and the loads fall to the ground ; the ridingcamels
    are too fresh, and, groaning loudly, revolve
    in small circles, as though one’s whistle of
    encouragement were a waltz. There are no people
    in the world so slovenly, so unpractical, or—if one
    may use a very slang word—so footling, as the
    The Imperial Porphyry Quarries. 93
    inhabitants of the Eastern Desert. One has heard
    so often of the splendid desert tribes, of fine figures
    and flashing eyes, of dignity and distinction, of
    gracious manners and lofty words, that one has
    come to expect the members of one’s caravan to
    be as princely as they are picturesque. It is with
    a shock that one finds them to be but ragged
    weaklings, of low intelligence and little dignity.
    Is this, one asks, the proud Bedwi whose ears are
    now being boxed by one’s servant ? And are these
    the brave sons of the desert who are being kicked
    into shape by that smart negro policeman, the son
    of slaves ? Look now, eight or ten of the Bedwin
    have quarrelled over their camels, and are feeling
    for their knives in preparation for a fight : shall
    we not see some stirring action, redolent of the
    brave days of old ? No ; the black policeman
    seizes his camel-whip and administers to as many
    as he can catch of the flying wretches as sound
    a beating as any naughty boys might receive.
    Lean -faced, hungry -eyed, and rather upright in
    carriage, one may expect them to be quick-witted
    and endowed with common – sense. Yet of all
    stupid people these unwashed miseries are the
    stupidest ; and as one sees them at the starting
    of a caravan, muddling the ropes, upsetting the
    loads, yawning, scratching themselves, squabbling
    94 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    in high, thin voices, and tripping over their antiquated
    swords and long guns, one’s dream of the
    Bedwin in this part of the desert fades and no
    more returns.
    Perhaps, however, it is the point of view which
    is at fault. Did one live in the desert without
    a deed to do or a thought to think beyond those
    connected with the little necessities of life, and
    with so vague a knowledge of time and distance
    as such an existence requires, one’s notion of the
    practical might be different, and one’s idea of
    intelligence might be less lofty. Perhaps, too,
    one has not yet met with the genuine types of
    the race ; for the camel- drivers employed by an
    economical Shekh, and the goatherds wTho wander
    through the valleys, may be but the riff-raff cast
    off from the more remote tribes. Moreover, there
    are a few exceptions to the general rule which
    may be met with even amongst the camelmen, but
    these are hardly sufficiently notable to record.
    At last a start was made ; and riding northeastwards
    over the hot, sandy plain, we trotted
    slowly towards the distant limestone hills which
    rose above a shifting mirage of lake-like vapour.
    For some miles our road led over the hard, flat
    desert ; but opportunely at the lunching hour we
    passed a spur of rock which afforded welcome
    The Imperial Porphyry Quarries. 95
    shade, and here we rested for an hour or so.
    At this point there is a well, known as Bir
    Arras, rather prettily situated amidst tamariskbushes
    and desert scrub ; but as it is only ten
    miles distant from Keneb it is not much used by
    travellers. Riding on in the afternoon, we verged
    somewhat to the left, and passed along a valley
    much broken up by low mounds of sand collected
    round the decayed roots of bushes ; and here
    several thriving tamarisks and other small trees
    lent colour to the scene. Soon we turned again
    to the left, and presently crossed two projecting
    spurs of the low hills, upon which beacons of stone
    had been erected in Roman days, on either side of
    the track, to mark the road. It is interesting to
    find that along the whole length of the route from
    Keneh to the quarries these piles of stone have
    been placed at irregular intervals in order that
    the traveller should have no difficulty in finding
    his \v7ay. Towards evening the tracks led us up
    the clearly marked bed of a dry river, bordered
    by tamarisks and other bushes ; and, passing along
    this for a short distance, we called a halt, and
    pitched the tents amongst the sand hillocks to
    one side. The following morning we were on the
    road soon after sunrise ; and, riding along the dry
    river-bed, we presently reached the Roman station
    96 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    of El Ghaiteh, which lies, in all, some seven and
    a half hours’ trot from Keneh. This is the first
    of the Roman posts on the road from Keneh to
    Gebel Dukhan, and here the ancient express caravans
    halted for the night. At the foot of a lowhill
    there is a fortified rectangular enclosure, in
    which several rooms with vaulted roofs are built.
    The walls are constructed of broken stones, and
    still stand some twelve feet or more in height.
    The entrance is flanked by round towers, and
    passing through it one sees on the left a large
    tank, built of burnt bricks and cement, in which
    the water, brought from the well in the plain, was
    stored. Just to the north of the station there are
    the ruins of the animal lines, where rough stone
    walls have been built on a well-ordered plan,
    forming a courtyard in which the stalls run in
    parallel rows. Above the enclosure, on the hilltop,
    there are some carefully constructed buildings
    of sun-dried brick, which may have been the
    officers’ quarters. Resting in the shade of the
    ruins, one’s eye wandered over the sun – burnt
    desert to the hazy hills beyond, and thence back
    along the winding river-bed to the bushes at the
    foot of the hill, where the camels lazily cropped
    the dry twigs, and where green dragon – flies
    hovered against the intensely blue sky. Then
    The Roman station at El Ghaiteh, looking down from the officers’
    quarters on the hill. A dry river-bed bordered by bushes runs
    across the plain.—Page 96.
    A tank for storing water inside the station of El Ghaiteh. —Page 96.
    PL. XVI.

    The Imperial Porphyry Quarries. 97
    again the ruins claimed one’s attention, and
    presently one seemed to forget the things of
    the present time, and to drift back to the days
    when the blocks of Imperial Porphyry were heaved
    and hoisted, carried and dragged along this road
    to the Nile and to Rome.
    A ride of somewhat over three hours across wide,
    undulating, gravel plains brought us to the next
    Roman station, known as Es Sargieh, which lies
    between two low mounds just to the north of the
    main track. Here a large excavation has been
    made in order to obtain water, and at its edge
    there are the remains of troughs and tanks constructed
    of brick and cement. The sand and clay
    from the excavation has been thrown up in an:
    embankment, so as to form a rectangular enclosure..
    At one end there are the ruins of a few chambers,
    and the animal lines near by are clearly marked.
    Es Sargieh marks the point where the road divides,
    one track leading to Gebel Dukhan, and the other
    to the white granite quarries of Um Etgal ; and it
    was thus an important watering-station.
    From this point for the rest of the day our road
    lay across a hard flat plain, bounded in the distance
    ahead by the dim peaks of granite mountains. As
    we had stopped some considerable time at the two
    Roman ruins, the baggage camels and men had
    98 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    pushed far in advance, and, with characteristic
    stupidity, continued to do so, though the sun went
    down and the stars came out. It was not till long
    past dinner-time that, riding furiously through the
    darkness, we managed to catch them up ; and
    hungry, aching, and cross, we quickly devoured a
    cold meal and rolled into bed. During the night
    a gale of wind came near to overthrowing the tents,
    for we had bivouacked where we had overtaken
    the caravan, upon the exposed plain. The night
    air felt bitterly cold as, clad in pyjamas, one pulled
    at ropes and hammered at pegs ; but it was a surprise
    to find the thermometer standing at 32 D
    Fahrenheit at this time of year.
    Having camped in the darkness, it was not till
    daybreak that we realised that we had now crossed
    the plain, and were already near the mouth of a
    valley which led into a region of dark rocks between
    two ranges of hills. Not long after sunrise
    we mounted our camels, and presently passed into
    this valley. Jagged cliffs towered above the road,
    and behind them the soft brown hills rose in an
    array of dimly seen peaks. A ride of two hours up
    this valley—that is to say, altogether about five
    hours’ trot from Es Sargieh—brought us to the
    Roman station of El Atrash. There is a fortified
    enclosure containing several regularly arranged
    The Imperial Porphyry Quarries. 99
    buildings, a tank, and a deep, circular well constructed
    of brick. The gateway is flanked by
    brick towers up which the steps can still be traced.
    Outside the enclosure there are the usual animal
    lines ; and near by there lies a large block of
    porphyry which must have been abandoned for
    some reason on its way to the river. The scenery
    here is wild and desolate. There was a feeling, as
    the eye passed from range to range of menacing
    hills and up to the grey clouded sky, that one was
    travelling in the moon. The day was cold and
    misty, and the sharp air already told of the
    altitude to which we had risen—now nearly 2000
    From here the road led through valleys lying
    between hills of ever-increasing height. The colour
    of the rocks now changed from a deep brown to a
    kind of soft purple ; while the ground over which
    we were moving, being composed of particles of red
    granite, turned to a curious rosy hue. It was as
    though one were looking through tinted glass
    and these combinations of colour—the red valley,
    the purple hills, and the grey sky—gave to the
    scene a beauty indescribable.
    We lunched in the shadow of the rocks, and
    sleeping on the ground thereafter one’s dreams
    were in mauves and burnt-siennas.
    ioo Travels in Upper Egypt desert safari .
    Mounting again and riding along this wonderful
    valley, feeling more than ever like Mr H. G. Wells’
    men in the moon, early in the afternoon we reached
    the Roman station of Wady Gatar, which lies in a
    hollow amidst lofty hills, some three and a half
    hours’ ride from El Atrash. The station consists,
    as before, of an enclosure, chambers, disused well,
    and animal lines ; but it is more ruined than the
    other posts which we had seen. There is a well
    not far from this point, to which the camels were
    sent to be watered ; and we were thus able to
    spend a quiet afternoon in our camp amongst the
    Towards sunset I climbed to the top of a low
    mound of rocks which overlooked the fortress, and
    there the silence of the evening and the strangeness
    of the surrounding hues enhanced to a point
    almost of awe the sense of aloofness which this
    part of the desert imposes upon one. On the right
    the line of a valley drew the eyes over the dim,
    brown waves of gravel to the darkness of the
    rugged horizon. Behind, and sweeping upward,
    the sky was a golden red ; and this presently
    turned to green, and the green to deep blue. On
    the left some reflected light tinged the eastern sky
    with a suggestion of purple, and against this the
    nearer mountains stood out darkly. In front the
    The Imperial Porphyry Quarries. 101
    low hills met together, and knit themselves into
    shapes so strange that one might have thought
    them the distortions of a dream. There was not a
    sound to be heard, except once when an unseen
    flight of migatory birds passed with a soft whir
    high overhead. The light was dim,—too dark to
    read the book which I carried. Nor was there
    much desire to read ; for the mind was wandering,
    as the eyes were, in an indistinct region of unrealities,
    and was almost silent of thought.
    Then in the warm, perfect stillness, with the
    whole wilderness laid prone in that listless haze
    which anticipates the dead sleep of night, there
    came—at first almost unnoticed—a small, black,
    moving mass, creeping over an indefinite hill- top.
    So silently it appeared, so slowly moved nearer,
    that one was inclined to think it a part of the dream,
    a vague sensation passing across the solemn, sleepy
    mind of the desert. Presently, very quietly, the
    mass resolved itself into a compact flock of goats.
    Now it was drawing nearer, and one could discern
    with some degree of detail the little procession

    the procession of dream-ideas one might have said,
    for it was difficult to face facts in the twilight.
    Along the valley it moved, and, fluttering in the
    wind, there arose a plaintive bleating and the wail
    of the goatherds pipe. He—one could see him
    102 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    now—was walking in advance of his flock, and his
    two hands held a reed from which he was pouring
    the ancient melodies of his race. From the hill-top
    I could soon look down on the flock as it passed
    below. It had become brown in colour ; and as
    the pipe ceased awhile the shuffle and patter of a
    hundred little creatures could be heard. It was a
    gentle sound, more inclined to augment than to
    diminish the dreamy character of the procession.
    Behind the flock two figures moved, their
    white garments fluttering in the wind, changing
    grotesquely the form and shape of the wearers.
    Over the gravel they went, and at a distance
    followed the dogs of the herd, growling as they
    passed. Over the gravel and down the valley,
    and with them went the gentle patter and the
    wandering refrain of the reed pipe. Then a bend
    in the path, or may be the fading of the dream,
    and the flock was seen no more. But in the darkness
    which had gathered one was almost too listless
    to feel that aught had passed beyond one’s
    We left Wady Gatar the next day soon after
    lunch and entered another fine valley. On the
    right the granite cliffs sloped up to the misty sky
    in clean, sheer faces of rock. On the left range
    after range of dimly peaked hills carried ones
    The Imperial Porphyry Quarries. 103
    thoughts into the clouds. The afternoon was sunless
    and the air bracing and keen. The camels,
    after their long drink, were ready for work, and
    we were soon swinging up the valley at a brisk
    trot. The road turned from side to side, now
    leading in a dozen clear tracks up the wide,
    gravelled bed of some forgotten torrent, and now
    passing in a single narrow path from one valley
    to the next. With every turn new groups of
    mountains became visible and higher peaks slid
    into sight. The misty air lent a softness to these
    groups, blending their varied colours into almost
    celestial harmonies of tone. Gradually the ranges
    mounted, until at last, as the afternoon began to
    draw in, the towering purple mountains of Gebel
    Dukhan rose from behind the dark rocks to the
    left of our road.
    It was almost sunset before we reached the foot
    oi this range, and the cloudy sun was passing
    behind the more distant hills as a halt was called.
    We were now in a wide, undulating valley, which
    was hemmed in by the superb mountains on three
    sides and disclosed low, open country towards the
    north-east. The beams of the hidden sun shot up
    from behind the dark hills in a sudden glare of
    brightness, and presently the clouded sky turned
    to a deep crimson. The lofty peaks of the southern
    104 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    mountains now caught the disappearing sunshine
    and sprang out of the mist in a hundred points of
    vivid red. For only a few minutes the conflagration
    lasted, but before it had fully died out the
    vaporous outlines in the far distance towards the
    north-east took form and colour, and the last gleam
    of sunlight revealed, some twenty miles away, the
    thin line of the sea, and above it the stately
    mountains of Sinai. A moment later the vision
    had passed, the sun had set, and in the gathering
    darkness the baggage camels, lumbering round a
    bend, came into sight, calling our attention to
    more material things.
    In the semi-darkness, while our meal was being
    prepared, we visited a Roman station which stands
    in the Wady Bileh at the foot of the Gebel
    Dukhan mountains, about three and a quarter
    hours’ trot from the fortress of Wady Gatar. The
    porphyry quarries and the settlement lay in the
    valley at the other side of the range of hills at the
    foot of which we were now standing ; and to reach
    them one might either climb by an ancient path
    over a pass in the range, or one might ride round
    by the tortuous valley—a journey said to be of
    nearly thirty miles. This station was thus the
    first night’s halting-place for express caravans
    returning from the quarries. At one side of the
    The excavation inside the enclosure of El Sargieh.—Page 97.
    The Roman station at El Greiyeh. The animal lines. The brick pillars
    supported the roof under which were the night stalls. Page 139.
    Pl. xvii.

    The Imperial Porphyry Quarries. 105
    wide, ancient road stands the usual small enclosure,
    having a doorway flanked with towers, and containing
    a few ruined chambers and a well. At the
    other side a cluster of granite rocks rising into a
    small mound had been surrounded by a stout wall,
    either in order that it should serve as a fortress, or
    because these rocks were for some reason sacred.
    There was nothing particularly noteworthy about
    the station, but, lying amidst such wild and magnificent
    scenery, it assumed in the half-light a
    charm which will not soon be forgotten.
    At dawn next morning we set out on foot to
    climb over the pass to the quarries. The sun was
    struggling to penetrate the soft mists as we started
    the actual ascent, and the air was cold and invigorating.
    Here and there one could detect the
    old Roman path passing up the hillside, but it was
    so much broken that a climb up the dry watercourse,
    across which it zigzagged, was preferable.
    At the immediate foot of the pass there is a small
    Roman fort containing three or four rooms, and at
    the highest point, which is 3150 feet above sealevel,
    there is a ruined rest-house, where the tired
    climber, no doubt, was able to obtain at least a pot
    of water. Here at the summit we had a wonderful
    view of the surrounding country. Behind us
    the mountains rose in a series of misty ranges, and
    106 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    he fore us lay the valley of Gebel Dukhan winding
    between the porphyry hills, while beyond them the
    northern mountains rose to some 6000 feet in the
    distance. The Roman road, descending on this
    side, was well preserved, and we were able to run
    down the 1200 feet or so, which brought us breathless
    to the level of the valley. The temple, town,
    and quarries lay about a mile down the Wady, at
    a point where there was a considerable breadth
    of flat gravel between the hills on either side.
    The town ruins—a cluster of crowded houses
    enclosed by a fortified wall—stand on the slope of
    the hill. A fine terrace runs along the east side,
    and up to this a ramp ascends. Passing through
    the gateway one enters the main street, and the
    attention is first attracted by an imposing building
    on the right hand. Here there are several chambers
    leading into an eight-pillared hall, at the end
    of which a well-made and well-preserved plungebath
    eloquently tells of the small pleasures of
    expatriated Roman officers. A turning from the
    main street brings one into an open courtyard,
    where there are two ovens and some stone dishes
    to be seen, besides a large quantity of pottery
    fragments. Around this in every direction the
    little huts are huddled, narrow lanes dividing one
    set of chambers from the next. The town is, of
    The Imperial Porphyry Quarries. 107
    course, very ruined ; but it does not require much
    imagination to people it again with that noisy
    crowd of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian quarrymen.
    One sees them prising out the blocks of purple
    porphyry from the hillside high above the valley,
    returning in the evening down the broad causeway
    to the town, or passing up the steps to the temple
    which stands on a knoll of granite rocks a couple
    of hundred yards to the north-east.
    The steps lead one up to a platform which
    formed the forecourt of the temple. This court
    is now covered with the ruins of what was once
    a fine granite portico rising on the east side.
    Four columns supported an inscribed architrave
    and decorated cornice, above which was the pediment
    or pointed roof. Behind this portico stood
    the sanctuary, built of broken stones carefully
    mortared and plastered to the necessary smoothness.
    A granite doorway led from one side into
    the vestry. In the forecourt, amidst the ruins,
    stands the granite altar, in its original position
    and near it lies the architrave with the proud
    inscription : ” For the safety and the eternal
    victory of our Lord Caesar Trajan Hadrian, absolute,
    august, and all his house ; to the Sun, the
    great Serapis, and to the co-enshrined gods, this
    temple, and all that is in it, is dedicated.” Then
    108 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    follow the names of the Governor of Egypt, the
    Superintendent of the Mines, and other officials.
    In the middle of the valley there is the well,
    which is now choked. A gallery, the roof of
    which was supported by five pillars, passes in
    a half-circle round one side of the well ; and a
    shallow drain in the pavement seems to have
    carried a stream of water along it. Here the
    workmen could sit in the shade to ease the thirst
    which exercise on the hot hills so soon creates
    and on our return journey up the pass we
    looked back more than once to this cool gallery
    and to the plunge-bath with a kind of envy of
    the past.
    The quarries are cut here and there on the
    hillside without any regularity. The blocks of
    porphyry were prised out of the rock wherever
    the work could most easily be carried on, and
    the action of the years has so dulled the broken
    surfaces that they now look almost like those
    of the natural mountain. The blocks were carried
    clown to the Nile, and in fact to Rome, in the
    rough, without even a preliminary dressing; for
    the work in this distant place had to be shortened
    as much as possible.
    Looking, in the European museums, at the fine
    capitals, the polished basins, the statues, and the
    Granite hills to the south of Wady Bileh. The Gebel Dukhan
    range is to the north of this wady.—Page 104.
    Ruins of the Roman temple at Gebel Dukhan, showing the hillside
    from which the porphyry was taken.—Page 107.
    Pl. xviii.

    The Imperial Porphyry Quarries. 109
    many other objects cut out of Imperial Porphyry,
    one has admired the work of the mason or the
    genius of the artist. But here in the Hills of
    Smoke one thinks of these antiquities with a
    feeling bordering on veneration. If the workmanship
    tells of an art that is dead, how much louder
    does the material cry out the praises of an energy
    that is also dead? Each block of stone is the
    witness of a history of organisation and activity
    almost beyond thought. This purple porphyry
    was not known to the ancient Egyptians : a
    Roman prospector must have searched the desert
    to find it. One would have thought that the
    aloofness of the valley from which it is to be
    procured would have kept its existence the secret
    of the hills ; for on the one side a winding pathway,
    thirty miles in length, separates the spot
    from the little-known main road, and on the other
    side a barrier of steep hills shuts it off from the
    Wady Bileh.
    Although Gebel Dukhan is so near the Red Sea,
    it was not possible for the stone to be transported
    by ship to Suez. The barren coast here was
    harbourless, except for the port of Myos Hormos,
    which was too far away to be practicable; and
    the stone would have had to be unloaded at
    Suez, and dragged across the desert to the neighno
    Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    bourhood of the modern Port Said. Every block
    of porphyry had therefore to be carried across
    the desert to Keneh, the old Kainepolis, on the
    Nile, and thence shipped by river-barge to the
    sea. Here it had to be transhipped to the great
    Mediterranean galleys, and thus conveyed across
    the treacherous sea to the port of Eome.
    Probably the blocks were dragged by oxen or
    men upon rough waggons, for the roads are not
    bad, except at certain places. To ride from Keneh
    to Wady Bileh, at the quiet five -miles -an -hour
    trot of the camel, took us altogether twenty-two
    and a half hours ; that is to say, the total distance
    is about 112 miles or so. The winding path from
    Wady Bileh up the valley to the quarries brings
    this total to about 140 miles ; and the caravans
    could not have covered this in less than eight
    days. On the first night after leaving Keneh
    the camp was probably pitched in the open. On
    the second night the station of El Ghaiteh was
    reached, and here there were provisions, water,
    and a small garrison. The third night was spent
    at Es Sargieh, where water was to be obtained.
    On the fourth night the houses of El Atrash
    sheltered the travellers, water and provisions
    being here obtainable. On the fifth night Wady
    Gatar was reached, where again there was a well.
    The Imperial Porphyry Quarries. 1 1
    The sixth night was passed at Wady Bileh, from
    whence express messengers could pass over the
    hill to the quarries. The seventh night was spent
    in the open, and on the following day the settlement
    was reached.
    The long road was rendered dangerous by the
    incursions of the desert peoples, and many of the
    hills between the fortified stations are crowned
    with ruined watch-towers. Roman troops must
    have patrolled the road from end to end, and the
    upkeep of these garrisons must have been a considerable
    expense. The numerous stone-cutters
    and quarrymen had to be fed and provided for
    and for this purpose an endless train of supplies
    had to be brought from the Nile valley. Oxen or
    donkeys for this purpose, and for the transporting
    of the porphyry, had to be kept constantly on the
    move. At Keneh a service of barges had to be
    organised, and at the seaport the galleys had
    to be in readiness to brave the seas with their
    heavy loads.
    It is of all this—of the activity, the energy, the
    bravery, the power of organisation, the persistency,
    the determination—that an object executed in
    Imperial Porphyry tells the story.
    The quarries were worked until about the fifth
    century a.d., for the Byzantine Emperors derived
    ii2 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    from their Roman predecessors an affection for
    this fine purple stone. There is a Greek inscription
    on the path leading up to one of the
    workings, which reads, ” Katholeke Ekklesia,” and
    which is perhaps the latest example of old-world
    activity in the Eastern Desert. There is no other
    place in the world where this porphyry is to be
    found, and when the quarries at last ceased to
    be worked, some time previous to the seventh
    century, the use of that stone had to cease also,
    nor has it ever again been procurable.
    One wonders whether there will come a time
    when some millionaire, fresh from the museums
    of Italy, will express a wish to pave his bathroom
    with the purple stone of the Emperors ; and
    whether the Hills of Smoke will again ring with
    the sound of the hammer and chisel, in response
    to the demands of a new fashion.
    It may be that some day the tourist will awake
    to the advantages and attractions of the Eastern
    Desert as a motoring country, will rush through
    the wadys, will visit the ancient centres of activity,
    will see these quarries, and will desire the porphyry.
    With a little preparation the road from
    Keneh to Gebel Dukhan could be made practicable
    for automobiles ; and when once the land ceases to
    be but the territory of the explorer and the prosThe
    Imperial Porphyry Quarries. 113
    pector, one may expect its mineral products to be
    seen, to be talked of, and finally to be exploited.
    In the late afternoon we left the valley, and
    climbed slowly up the Roman road to the summit
    of the pass, halting here to drink deeply from our
    water-bottles. The descent down the dry watercourse
    was accomplished in a long series of jumps
    from boulder to boulder, at imminent peril of a
    sprained ankle. The grey rocks were smooth and
    slippery, and between them there grew a yellowflowered
    weed which, when trodden upon, was as
    orange-peel. The rapid rush down the hillside,
    the setting sun, and the bracing wind, caused our
    return to camp to take its place amongst the most
    delightful memories of the whole expedition. Once
    we halted, and borrowing the carbines of the native
    police, we shot a match of half a dozen rounds
    apiece, with a spur of stone as target. The noise
    echoed amongst the rocks ; and a thousand feet
    below we saw the ant-like figures of our retainers
    anxiously hurrying into the open to ascertain the
    cause of the disturbance. »
    As we neared the bottom of the hill the sun
    set, and once more this wonderful valley was lit
    with the crimson afterglow, and once more the
    mountains of Sinai stood out for a moment from
    the gathering mists above the vivid line of the
    ii4 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    Red Sea. Darkness had fallen when at last, footsore
    and weary, we reached the camp ; and one
    was almost too tired to enjoy the sponge-down in
    the half-basin of water which is all that can be
    allowed in this waterless region, and the meal
    of tinned food which followed. As one fell to
    sleep that night, one’s dreams were all of strenuous
    labours : of straining oxen and sweating men ; of
    weary marches and unsuspected ambushes ; of the
    sand-banks of the Nile and the tempests of the sea.
    But ever in the far distance one seemed to be conscious
    of thoughtless, implacable men, dipping
    their bejewelled fingers into the basins of purple
    porphyry as they reclined in the halls of Imperial
    On the following morning our party divided,
    Mr Wells and the greater part of the caravan
    going north-east to the petroleum wells of Gebel
    Zeit on the sea-coast, and I to Um Etgal, the
    Mons Claudianus of the ancients, where the white
    granite, also so much admired by the Romans, was
    quarried from the hillside.
    The ruins of the town of Gebel Dukhan. The upright pillars
    of granite supported a roof.—Page 106.
    The Roman town oi~ Mons Claudianus, looking south from the causeway
    loading to the main quarry. The round piles of stone in the
    foreground are built at intervals along the causeway,— Page 124.
    Pi., xix.

    In the previous chapter an account was given of
    a journey made to the Imperial porphyry quarries
    of Gebel Dukhan in the month of March 1907.
    These quarries are to be found about a score or
    so of miles from the Red Sea at a point in the
    Eastern Desert opposite the southern end of the
    Peninsula of Sinai. From Gebel Dukhan I returned
    to the Nile by way of the white granite
    quarries of Um Etgal, the ancient Mons Claudianus,
    and thence past the old gold workings of
    Fatireh to Keneh.
    My caravan was composed of a riding party
    consisting of myself, my native assistant, my
    servant, and a guide ; and the baggage -train of
    a dozen camels and men, and a couple of guards.
    The guide was a picturesque, ragged old man,
    whose face was wizen and wrinkled by the glare
    of the desert. His camel was decked with swinging
    tassels of black and yellow, and across his
    n6 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    saddle there was slung a gun at least seven feet
    long, while at his side there hung a broad-bladed
    sword in an old red -leather case. In his belt
    there were two knives, and in his hand he carried
    a stout bludgeon, something in the form of a
    hockey – stick. This latter is the weapon most
    generally carried by the Ababdeh and other desert
    peoples, and its antiquity is evidenced by the fact
    that the earliest hieroglyph for “a soldier ” in the
    script of ancient Egypt represents a figure holding
    just such a stick.
    The old guide was followed by three lean, yellow
    dogs, who seemed to be much bored by the journey
    and dejected by the sterility around. He was a
    man of some dignity, and took considerable pride
    in riding at the head of the little procession in
    order to show the way, although, except at the
    cross-roads, the tracks were perfectly plain and
    the ancient beacons were generally to be seen.
    Once or twice I made an attempt to pass him
    so that I might have an uninterrupted view of
    the scenery ; for the sight of a ragged, huddled
    back and the hindquarters of a betasseled camel
    is inclined to pall after a while. But these
    efforts ended in a short, hard race, in which I
    was generally the loser ; nor had I the heart to
    order the old man to the rear thereafter.
    The Quarries of Mons Claudianus. 117
    We set out from the camp at Wady Bileh, the
    nearest point to Gebel Dukhan on the main road,
    soon after daybreak, and passed along the wonderful
    valley leading back to the Roman station of
    Wady Gatar, which I have already described, our
    route branching off towards the south just before
    reaching that place. The road then led along a
    fine valley, up which a blustering north wind went
    whistling, and it was only by donning an overcoat
    and by trotting at a smart pace that one
    could pretend to feel comfortably warm. Soon
    after noon I halted near some thorn – trees, in
    the shelter of which luncheon was presently
    spread. A vulture circling overhead watched
    our party anxiously, in the vain hope that somebody
    would drop dead, but on seeing us mount
    again to continue the journey it sailed away disgustedly
    over the windy hill-top.
    It was still cold and stormy when, after trotting
    altogether for five hours from Wady Bileh, we
    arrived at the well of Um Disi, where the camp
    was pitched in order that the camels might drink
    and graze. The well is the merest puddle in the
    sand amidst the smooth boulders of a dry watercourse,
    hidden under the overhanging cliffs of
    granite. It lies in the corner of a wide amphitheatre
    of gravel and sand, completely shut in
    n8 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    by the mountains. Bushes of different kinds
    grow in great profusion over this amphitheatre,
    and from the tent door, when the eye was tired
    of wandering upon the many- coloured hills, one
    might stare in a lazy dream at a very garden
    of vegetation, around which the grey wagtails
    flitted and the dragon-flies slowly moved. It is
    an ideal place for a camp, and one but wished
    that more than a night could have been spent
    there ; for one would have liked to have explored
    the surrounding hills and valleys, and to have
    stalked the gazelle which had left their footprints
    near the well.
    The nights up here in this locality, which must
    be some 1500 or more feet above the sea, were
    bitterly cold, in spite of the approaching summer.
    There is perhaps no place where one more keenly
    feels a low temperature than in the desert ; and
    here at Um Disi, where the air is that of the
    mountains, a colder night was passed than it has
    ever been my lot to endure—with the exception,
    perhaps, of one occasion some years ago when, with
    another student of archaeology, I spent the night
    upon the flint -covered hill -tops of the Western
    Desert. Our baggage and bedding had then failed
    to reach us, and we were obliged to sleep in our
    clothes and overcoats, dividing a newspaper to
    The Quarries of Mons Claudianus. 119
    act as a cover for the neck and ears. By midnight
    we were so cold that we were forced to
    dance a kind of hornpipe in order to set the
    circulation going again in the veins ; and my
    friend was light-hearted enough to accompany
    this war -dance with a breathless rendering of
    the hymn, ” We are but little children meek,”
    which had been dinned into his head, he told
    me, while staying at a mission school in another
    part of Egypt. Memory recalls the scene of the
    dark figure shuffling and swaying in the clear
    starlight, the biting wind whistling around the
    rocks in rhythmless accompaniment ; and yet it
    does not seem that so much discomfort was then
    felt as was experienced in the flapping tent at
    Um Disi.
    The journey was continued early next morning,
    the road leading out from the amphitheatre
    through a gauge on the eastern side. There was
    now some difficulty about the method of travelling,
    for only the guide knew the way ; and as he rode
    with us, there was danger of our losing the slowly
    moving baggage camels, which always followed
    behind, catching us up at our halts for luncheon
    and other refreshment. I therefore took with me
    some bags of torn paper, and at every turning
    of the path, or at the cross-tracks, I threw down
    120 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    a few handfuls in the manner of a paper-chase;
    and thus, though the path here wound from one
    valley to another in the most perplexing manner,
    the caravan reached its destination almost as soon
    as we.
    It was disappointing to find that our camelmen,
    born and bred in the desert, were unwilling to
    take the responsibility of following safely in our
    tracks. One would have thought that the footprints
    of our camels would have been as easy for
    them to trace on an unfrequented path as torn
    paper is to us. The guide, on the other hand,
    showed a really wonderful knowledge of the intricate
    paths ; for it is not reasonable to suppose
    that he had travelled between Gebel Dukhan and
    Um Etgal more than two or three times in his
    life, this being off the main routes through the
    desert. He did not once hesitate or look around,
    although when questioned he declared that many
    years had passed since last he had been here.
    In these valleys we met, for the first time for
    some days, one or two Bed win. A ragged figure,
    carrying a battle – axe and a mediaeval sword,
    sprang up from the rocks, where he was tending
    a flock of goats, and hurried across to shake hands
    with our guide. The two entered into earnest
    conversation in low tones ; and the old guide,
    Mons Claudianus. The town.—Pag-e 124.
    V^-“*rq? ft
    Mons Claudianus. Chambers on the west side of the forecourt oi the
    Temple. The threshold and base of a column of the granite
    portico are seen on the right.—Page 126.
    Pl. xx.

    The Quarries of Mons Claudianus. 121
    after pointing with his lean finger to his bag of
    food, which was every day diminishing in size,
    and then to the hungry dogs, dismounted from
    his camel, tied up one of the dogs, and handed
    it over to his wild friend. A few hours later
    another ragged figure, this time a Bishari, carrying
    a long gun, ran forward to greet us, and to
    him the guide delivered over his second dog, after
    a similar discussion with regard to his food-bag.
    For over a mile from this point, after the dog and
    his new master had diminished to mere specks
    on the rocks, the wind brought down to us the
    melancholy howls of the former and the unconcerned
    song of the latter to his goats.
    Our way led up the wide Wady Ghrosar, which
    ends in a pass, from the top of which a magnificent
    view is obtained. This point was reached in a
    trot of about three and three-quarter hours from
    Bir Um Disi. One looks down upon a great lake
    of sand, amidst which the groups of dark granite
    hills rise like a thousand islands, while dim ranges
    enclose the scene on all sides. From this huge
    basin a hundred valleys seem to radiate, and it
    would be an easy matter to head for the wrong
    peak and to lose oneself upon the undulating
    sands. Descending a smooth slope, we rested for
    luncheon in the shade of a group of rocks; and
    122 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    presently mounting our camels again, we crossed
    the basin and entered a series of intricate valleys,
    which became more and more narrow and enclosed
    as the day wore on, giving us good reason to
    doubt whether our baggage camels would manage
    to follow. At last, in the late afternoon, after a
    ride of rather under four hours from the top of
    Wady Ghrosar, a turn in the path brought the
    town of Mons Claudianus suddenly into view ; and
    in a moment the camels were forgotten, and the
    wonderfully preserved remains had carried one
    back to the days of the Emperors Trajan and
    The hills of Um Etgal supplied Rome with a
    fine white granite speckled with black, which was
    deservedly popular for building purposes during
    the Imperial age. The stone was not employed
    by the ancient Egyptians, and it was left to a
    Roman prospector to discover its existence and to
    open quarries. The settlement which was founded
    here was known generally as Mons Claudianus,
    but in honour of the Emperor Trajan the well
    which supplied it with water was called Fons
    Trajanus, and this name was sometimes applied
    to the town. The stone was transported from
    here to the Nile on waggons drawn by oxen or
    men, and was placed upon barges at Keneh. It
    The Quarries of Mons Claudianus. 123
    was then floated down the stream to the sea,
    where it was transhipped to the galleys which
    bore it across the Mediterranean to the port of
    Rome. The distance from here to the Nile must
    be about ninety-five miles, since it took us nearly
    nineteen hours of five-miles-an-hour trotting to
    cover the distance ; and, as will be seen, the blocks
    which were dispatched from the quarries were of
    enormous size. It must have been an easier matter
    to transport the Imperial Porphyry from Gebel
    Dukhan to the river ; for the objects executed
    in that stone wrere not usually of a size to require
    particularly large blocks. But the great pillars
    which were cut from the white granite were often
    of dimensions which one would have regarded as
    prohibitive to transportation. In order to reduce
    the weight to the minimum the columns were
    dressed on the spot to within an inch or so of
    their final surface, whereas the porphyry blocks
    were light enough to be sent down in the rough.
    This is the explanation of the fact that at Gebel
    Dukhan there was but a small town, whereas here
    at Um Etgal the settlement was far more elaborate
    and extensive. Skilled masons had to live at
    Mons Claudianus as well as quarrymen, engineers
    as well as labourers ; and the architects themselves
    may have had to visit the quarries on certain
    124 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    occasions. If one has admired the enterprise
    which is displayed in the works at Gebel Dukhan,
    an even greater call on one’s admiration will be
    made at Urn Etgal ; and those who would fully
    realise the power of the Roman Empire should
    make their slow way to these distant quarries,
    should realise the enormous difficulties of their
    working, and should think for a moment that
    all this activity was set in motion by the mere
    whim of an Emperor.
    The town, enclosed by a buttressed and fortified
    wall, stands in a valley between the rocky hills
    from which the white granite was quarried. A
    broad road leads up to the main entrance. On
    the left side of this stand various ruined houses,
    and on the right there is a large enclosure in
    which the transport animals were stabled. Over
    half this enclosure there was a roof, supported
    by numerous pillars ; but the other half stands
    open, and still contains line upon line of perfectly
    preserved stalls, at which some 300 oxen or
    donkeys could be stabled. Farther up the road,
    on the opposite side, just before reaching the
    entrance to the town, there stands the bathhouse.
    One first enters a good-sized hail in which
    three small granite tanks stand. Here the bathers
    no doubt washed themselves before entering the
    Mons Claudianus. East end of the Temple.—Page 126.

    The Quarries of Mons Claudianus. 125
    baths proper. From this silent hall two doorways
    open. The first of these leads into a series of
    three small rooms which were heated by furnaces
    in the manner of a Turkish bath. These chambers
    seem to have been heated to different degrees, for
    under the floor of the innermost there is a large
    cavity or cellar for the hot air, whereas in the
    other rooms there are only pottery flues, which
    pass down the walls behind the plaster. In one
    chamber there is an arched recess, which seems
    to have been made for ornamental purposes. The
    second doorway from the hall leads into a fine
    vaulted room, at the far end of which a plungebath,
    some nine feet long and four or five feet
    deep, is constructed of bricks and cement. Steps
    lead down into it from the floor level, and in the
    walls around there are ornamental niches in which
    statuettes or vases may have stood. In this tank
    the Roman officer was able to lie splashing after
    his hot-air bath, and there is an appearance of
    luxury about the place which suggests that he
    could here almost believe himself in his own
    The enclosed town consists of a crowded mass
    of small houses, intersected by a main street from
    which several lanes branch to right and left. The
    walls are all built of broken stones, and the door126
    Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    ways are generally constructed of granite. Some
    of the roofing is still intact, and is formed of thin
    slabs of granite supported by rough pillars. One
    wanders from street to street, picking a way here
    and there over fallen walls ; now entering the
    dark chambers of some almost perfectly preserved
    house, now pausing to look through a street doorway
    into the open court beyond. Large quantities
    of broken pottery and blue glazed ware lie about,
    but there did not seem to be many other antiquities
    on the surface.
    The temple lies outside the town on the hillside
    to the north. A flight of ruined steps, some 25
    feet in breadth between the balustrades, leads up
    to a terrace, on which stands the broken altar,
    inscribed as follows : “In the twelfth year of
    the Emperor Nerva Trajan Csesar Augustus
    Germanicus Dacicus ; by Sulpicius Simius, Prefect
    of Egypt, this altar was made.” At the north end
    of the terrace there is a granite portico, of which
    the two elegant columns are now overthrown.
    Through this one passes into a large four-pillared
    hall, where there is another altar, upon which is
    written : ” Annius Rufus ; Legate of the XVth
    Legion ‘Appolinaris,’ superintending the marble
    works of Mons Claudianus by the favour of the
    Emperor Trajan.” From this hall the sanctuary
    The Quarries of Mons Claudianus. 127
    and other important rooms lead. The walls in the
    various parts of the building now only appear as
    orderly piles of rough stones, but when they were
    neatly covered with the salmon-coloured plaster,
    which may be seen in the bath-house and elsewhere,
    they must have been most imposing. Built
    into one of the outer walls of the temple there is a
    block of stone decorated with the well-known
    Egyptian symbol of the disk and serpents ; and
    this seems to be the only indication of Egyptian
    influence in the place.
    To the north-east of the town a great causeway
    leads up to the main quarries, and half-way along
    it lies a huge block of granite, abandoned for some
    reason before it had been dragged down to the
    depository below. Here at the foot of the causeway
    lie several huge columns already trimmed,
    and many smaller blocks left in the rough. Most
    of these are numbered or otherwise marked, and
    on one enormous block, hewn into the form of a
    capital, there is written : ” The property of Caesar
    Nerva Trajan.”
    The well from which the inhabitants of Mons
    Claudianus drew their water lies in a valley nearly
    a mile from the town. It is enclosed within a
    courtyard, and near it stands a round tower some
    25 feet in height. From this tower to a point
    128 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    about a quarter of a mile from the town there
    runs an aqueduct along which the water was
    evidently sent, the drop of 25 feet giving it the
    necessary impetus. At the town end of the
    aqueduct there is a building which contains a
    large tank and a series of rooms something in
    the nature of a small barrack. Here, no doubt,
    lived the persons who had charge of the watersupply,
    and it was probably their duty to see
    that the tank was always full. Outside the
    building there is a trough from which the animals
    could drink. One imagines the quarryrnen or
    their wives coming each day to the tank to fill
    their amphorae with water, and the stablemen
    leading down the mules or donkeys to the trough.
    Here, as in the animal lines at the town, one is
    struck with the disciplined system shown in the
    arrangements, and it seems clear that the settlement
    was under the immediate eyes of true
    Romans, uninfluenced by the slovenliness of the
    I first saw these ruins in the red light of sunset,
    and through the streets of the town I made my
    way in the silence of nightfall. No words can
    record the strangeness of wandering thus through
    doorways unbarred since the days of Imperial
    Rome, and through houses uninhabited for so many
    Mens Claudianus. Doorway leading- from the hall of the Bath-house
    into the room in which was the plunge – bath. Originally the
    walls wTere plastered.—Page 125.
    Mons Claudianus. Pedestal of the altar in the forecourt of the Temple.
    The altar itself is seen broken in the foreground.—Page 126.
    Pl. xxii.

    The Quarries of Mons Claudianus. 129
    hundreds of years. It is difficult to describe the
    sensations which a scene of this kind arouses. At
    first the mind is filled with sheer amazement both
    at the freshness, the newness of the buildings,
    and at their similarity to those in use at the
    present day. One cannot bring oneself to believe
    that so many centuries have passed since human
    eyes looked daily upon them or hands touched them.
    But presently a door seems to open in the brain,
    a screen slides back, and clearly one sees Time in
    its true relation. A thousand years, two thousand
    years, have the value of the merest drop of water
    in an ocean. One’s hands may reach out and touch
    the hands which built these houses, fashioned
    these doorways, and planned these streets. This
    town is not a relic of an age of miracles, when the
    old gods walked the earth or sent their thunderbolts
    from an unremote heaven ; but stone by
    stone it was constructed by men in every way
    identical with ourselves, whose brains have only
    known the sights and sounds which we know,
    altered in but a few details.
    The fact that those far-off days are so identical
    with those we live in does not, however, speak to
    the mind of the changelessness of things, of the
    constancy of human customs. That is a minor
    thought. It tells rather of our misconception of
    130 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    the nature of Time ; it shows how difficult it is to
    judge the ages by the standard of human experience.
    In looking at these almost unharmed relics
    of a life which ceased before our remotest English
    history had begun, one sees that their modern
    appearance is not so much due to the persistence
    of custom as it is to the shortness of time since
    the town was built. Two thousand years is not a
    period which we have the right to call long : it is
    but an hour in the duration of man’s existence
    upon earth. ” A thousand ages in thy sight are
    like an evening gone,” runs the old hymn ; and
    one feels that the ages since this town was built
    must indeed be but an evening to One whose laws
    of Decay and Change have not found time in them
    to show more than a few signs of their working.
    As one entered the temple in the twilight, and
    aroused unaccustomed echoes in the silence of its
    halls, the thought was that one had come rudely
    to awaken the Past ; and, as the degenerate son of
    a race that had outlived its miracles, to bring the
    tidings that the gods were dead. But when the
    newness, the freshness of parts of the buildings,
    had opened the doors of the mind, the thought
    was only that the gods were still living and
    mighty who could think so lightly of twenty
    long centuries.
    The Quarries of Mons Claudianus. 131
    On the following morning I busied myself in
    taking notes and photographs amongst the ruins
    and somewhat before noon the camp was struck.
    The road, now leading westwards towards Keneh,
    passed for the main part of the ride along a wide
    valley of great beauty ; and after trotting for
    about three and a half hours we passed a small
    ancient quarry of fine, small-grained, grey granite,
    near which a few huts were grouped. Towards
    sunset we crossed the brow of a hill, and so
    descended into the Wady Fatireh, where we
    camped near the well of that name. Here there
    is a Roman station differing very slightly from
    those already described. It lies about five and
    a half hours’ trot from Mons Claudianus, and
    was thus the first night’s halting -place for express
    caravans on the road from that town to
    As darkness fell I was sitting in the fortress
    questioning the guide as to the road, when we
    were both startled by the sound of falling stones,
    and looking up we saw a large dog-like creature
    disappearing over the wall. Examining the footprints
    afterwards, one saw them to be the heavy
    marks of a hyaena ; but no more was heard of him.
    Hyaenas are by no means rare in the desert,
    though it is not usual to find them so far back
    132 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    from the Nile as this. In sleeping out in the
    desert travellers warn one to be careful, for a
    hyaena, they say, might snap at a foot protruding
    from the blankets, just as a man might take a
    biscuit from the sideboard ; but I do not recollect
    hearing of anybody who has ever been attacked.
    The ancient Egyptians used to eat hyaenas, and
    the scenes in the early tombs show them being
    fattened up in the farms. Men are seen flinging
    the unfortunate creatures on their backs, their
    legs being tied, while others force goose-flesh down
    their throats. Probably the archaic hunter in the
    desert ate hyaena-flesh for want of other meat,
    and the custom took hold amongst the sporting
    families of dynastic times ; for with proper feeding
    there is no reason to suppose that the meat would
    be objectionable. The old guide told me, as we
    sat in the darkness, that there are several trappers
    who make their living by snaring hyaenas, and
    there is no part of the animal which has not a
    marketable value. The skin has its obvious uses ;
    the skull is sold as a charm, and brings luck to
    any house under the threshold of which it is
    buried ; the fat is roasted and eaten as a great
    delicacy ; and the flesh is also used for eating, and
    for medical purposes, certain parts being stewed
    down and swallowed by women who desire to
    Pl. xxiii

    The Quarries of Mons Claudianus. 133
    produce a family in spite of Nature’s unwillingness.
    In the neighbourhood of Fatireh we noticed
    several rough workings in the rocks, near which
    there were often a few ruined huts. These are
    the remains of ancient gold mines, worked by the
    Egyptians and the Romans. There are said to be
    many old mines in this neighbourhood, and an
    attempt has been made in recent years to reopen
    some of them, though without much success. In
    an inscription of Dynasty XVIII. (b.c. 1580-1350)
    one reads of ” the gold of the desert behind
    Koptos,” which city was situated on the Nile
    a few miles south of Keneh ; and, although most
    of the Koptos metal was obtained from the
    region of Wady Fowakhieh, of which the reader
    will have heard in a previous chapter, some of
    the gold may have been mined in the Fatireh
    neighbourhood at that date, as it certainly was
    in Roman times. The subject is one of such
    interest that I may be permitted to mention
    here something of the methods of working the
    gold employed by the ancient.
    A full account is given by Diodorus, who obtained
    his information from Agatharcides, of the
    mines which are situated in the Eastern Desert
    farther to the south ; and, as the methods were no
    134 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    doubt similar in both districts, the information
    enables one to reconstruct the scenes which these
    hills of Fatireh looked down upon two thousand
    years ago.
    The persons who worked the mines were mainly
    criminals and prisoners of war ; but with these
    there were many unjustly accused men of good
    breeding, and those who had by some political
    action earned the Pharaoh’s or the Emperor’s
    wrath. Frequently this class of prisoner was
    banished to the mines, together with all the
    members of his family, and these also were
    obliged to labour for the king’s profit. No distinctions
    were made at the mines between the
    classes, but all suffered together, and all were
    weighed down with fetters by night and by day.
    There was little or no chance of escape, for sentries
    were posted on every hill-top, and the soldiers were
    ready to give chase through the waterless desert
    should a man elude the watchman. These soldiers
    were all of foreign extraction, and the chances
    were heavy against their understanding the speech
    of the prisoners ; and thus they were seldom able
    to be bribed or introduced into a scheme of
    The work was carried on day after day without
    cessation, and always the labourers were under the
    The Quarries of Mons Claudianus. 135
    eye of a merciless overseer, who showered blows
    upon them at the slightest provocation. In order
    to keep down the expenses, no clothes were provided
    for the prisoners, and often they possessed
    not a rag to hide their nakedness. Nor were they
    allowed to give a moment’s time to the bathing
    or care of their bodies. In good or in bad health
    they were forced to work ; and neither the weakness
    of extreme age, nor the fever of sickness, nor
    the infirmities of women, were regarded as proper
    cause for the idleness even of an hour. All alike
    were obliged to labour, and were urged thereto by
    many blows. Thus the end of a man who had
    been banished to these mines was always the
    same : fettered and unwashed, covered with bruises
    and disfigured by pestilence, he dropped dead in
    his chains under the lash of the relentless whip.
    The sufferings of life were such that death was
    hailed with joy, and it was the dying alone who
    possessed a single thought of happiness.
    Those who have seen the old workings on the
    exposed face of the rocks, and have known the
    coldness of the winter nights and the intense heat
    of the summer days, will alone realise what
    tortures these poor wretches must have suffered.
    One might well think that the wind which went
    moaning down the valley as we rode along the
    136 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    path to the Nile still carried the groans of the
    sufferers, and that the whispering rocks still
    echoed the cries of utter despair. Looking at
    the huts where these people lived and the mines
    where they laboured, one could not regard the
    record of their woe, which Diodorus makes known
    to us, as a tale of long ago. Two thousand years,
    one may repeat, is not really a period which we
    should regard as long ; and while walls stand
    upright and mines gape open, the sound of lamentation
    will not be hushed in these valleys.
    The rock from which the gold was obtained,
    says Diodorus, was very hard ; but the miners
    softened it by lighting fires under it, after which
    it could almost be broken with the hands. When
    it was thus prepared, thousands of prisoners were
    set to breaking it with iron tools, while the
    overseer directed their labours towards the veins
    of gold. To the strongest of the men iron picks
    were given, and with these, though wielded unskilfully
    and with great labour, they were made
    to attack the hillside. The galleries, following
    the veins, twisted and turned, so that at the
    depth of a few feet there was no glimmer of
    daylight ; and for this reason the miners each
    carried a small lamp bound to their forehead.
    As the blocks of quartz were broken by the picks
    The Quarries of Mons Claudianus. 137
    they were carried to the surface by the children
    of the captives, who formed constant procession up
    and down the dark galleries. These fragments
    were then gathered up by youths and placed
    in stone mortars, in which they were pounded
    with iron pestles until the ore was broken into
    pieces of the size of peas. The ore was then
    handed over to women and old men, who placed
    it in hand-mills, and thus ground it to powder.
    This powder was then placed upon a sloping
    surface, and a stream of water was poured over
    it which carried away the particles of stone but
    left the gold in position. This process of washing
    was repeated several times, until all foreign matter
    was eliminated and the gold dust became pure and
    bright. Other workmen then took the dust, and,
    after measuring it carefully, they poured it into
    an earthenware crucible ; and having added a small
    quantity of lead, tin, salt, and bran, they closed the
    vessel with a tight-fitting lid, and placed it in a
    furnace for the space of five days. At the end of
    this time the crucible was set aside to cool, and on
    removing the lid it was found to contain pure gold
    ready to be dispatched to the Treasury.
    To bear witness to the accuracy of this account
    one sometimes finds mortars and hand-mills lying
    amidst the ruins of the old mining settlements.
    138 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    At the mines of Urn Garriat there are said to
    be thousands of these mills, and here at Fatireh
    not a few are to be found. Sluices for washing
    the crushed ore have been observed in some of
    the old workings ; and of the smelting crucibles
    remnants exist at Um Garriat and elsewhere.
    Practically nothing is known of the methods
    employed by the Egyptians in earlier days, but
    they cannot have differed very greatly from those
    of the Roman period. There seems reason to suppose
    that less cruelty existed in dynastic times
    than in the days of the callous Romans ; and in
    the following chapter an account will be given of
    a temple, a well, and a town built by King Sety L
    for the benefit of the persons who were engaged in
    The night spent at Fatireh was again bitterly
    cold, and a violent wind necessitated a tussle with
    tent-ropes and pegs : a form of exercise as annoying
    in the daytime as any that exists, and in the
    shivering night-time unspeakable. A couple of
    hours’ riding next day brought us to the end of
    the mountainous country and into the open desert.
    For the first time for several days the sun streamed
    down from a cloudless sky, but the strong north
    wind continued to blow in full force ; and as we
    trotted over the level plains we were half-blinded
    Mons Claudianus. A large granite column lying- to the north-east
    of the town. The back wall of the town is seen behind the
    column, above which the Temple buildings are seen at the foot
    of the granite hills.—Page 127.
    Mons Claudianus. Large granite columns lying at the foot of
    a quarry west of the town.—Page 127.
    Pl. xxiv

    The Quarries of Mons Claudianus. 139
    by the stinging sand. The peaked hills behind us
    rose from a sea of tearing sand, and before us in
    the distance rose low, undulating clay mounds,
    beyond which one could catch a glimpse of the
    limestone cliffs so typical of the Nile valley. In
    the afternoon we crossed these mounds and descended
    into a very maze of hillocks, amidst which
    we camped. Amongst these mounds we met a
    couple of Bedwin, the purpose of whose presence
    was entirely obscure. Our guide exchanged the
    usual greetings with them, and then in a low
    voice began to talk of the miserable dog which
    trotted dejectedly behind his camel. Again he
    pointed to his almost empty bag of food, and at
    last dismounted, fastened a rope to the creature’s
    neck, and handed it to the Bedwin. The usual
    howls floated to us on the wind as we rode onwards,
    but the high spirits of the guide at his
    freedom from any further responsibility was a real
    pleasure to witness.
    Early in the following morning I visited the
    Roman station of Greiyeh, which lies some seven
    hours’ trot from Fatireh, and about six hours, or
    rather more, from Keneb, and was thus the first
    night’s halting -place out from the Nile, or the
    second from Mons Claudianus. The station is, as
    usual, a rectangular enclosure, in which several
    140 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    rooms are constructed. Particularly well preserved
    are the animal lines, which lie to the
    west of the station. They consist of a courtyard
    in which fourteen rows of stalls are built,
    while down either side there has been a shed
    with a roof supported by a row of pillars. Not
    far away is the ancient well, enclosed in a small
    This is the last of the Roman stations, and
    having passed it, the ancient world seemed to
    slip back out of one’s reach. The camels were
    set at a hard trot over the now flat and burning
    sand, and by noon the distant palms of Keneh
    were in sight floating above the mirage. As the
    houses of the town grew more and more distinct
    in the dazzling sunlight, the practical concerns of
    one’s work came hurrying to mind ; and in times
    and trains, baggage and bustle, the quiet desert,
    with its ghosts of Rome, faded away as fades some
    wonderful dream when the sleeper wakes.
    The small shrine in the Eastern Desert, which I
    have here called the Temple of Wady Abad, is
    known to Egyptologists as the Temple of Redesiyeh,
    although it is thirty-seven miles or more
    from the village on the Nile, five miles above
    Edfu, which bears that name. Redesiyeh seems
    to have been the point from which Lepsius, the
    German archaeologist, and other early travellers
    set out to visit the desert shrine ; and hence the
    name of this wholly unimportant village was given
    to the ruin, and nobody has bothered to find one
    more suitable. By the natives the building is
    called El Kaneis, ” the Chapel ” ; and since it is
    situated in the well-known Wady Abad, it would
    seem most natural to call it the ” Chapel, or
    Temple, of Wady Abad.” Modern prospectors
    and mining engineers have been puzzled to know
    what Redesiyeh has to do with the place ; and
    the fact that an old German antiquarian half a
    142 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    century ago collected his camels at that village
    being wholly without significance to them, they
    have regarded the word Redesiyeh as a probable
    corruption of Rhodesia, and have spoken, to the
    amazement and confusion of the uninitiate, of
    the Temple of Rhodesia in the hills of the Upper
    Egyptian Desert.
    The shrine was built by King Sety I. (b.c. 1300),
    the father of Rameses the Great, for the benefit
    of the miners passing to and from the various
    gold mines near the Red Sea ; and the story one
    hears from the modern engineers, which vaguely
    relates that the temple was erected by King
    Ptolemy as a memorial to his son, who died at
    this spot on his return from the mines, does not
    require consideration. During the brilliant reign
    of Sety I. the gold mines were energetically
    worked, and the produce of those upon the road
    to which this shrine was built was intended
    especially for the upkeep and ornamentation of
    the king’s great temple at Abydos, about 180
    miles by river north of the Wady Abad. There
    are so many old gold workings between the river
    and the Red Sea that one cannot say definitely
    where Sety’s miners were bound for who stopped
    to offer a prayer to the gods at this wayside
    shrine, but one may say certainly that Edfu, the
    The Roman station of Abu Gehad. Some of the rooms as seen
    from the court, looking- west.— Page 152.
    Front view of the Temple of YVaclv Abad.—Page 155.
    Pl. xxv

    The Temple of Wady Abad. 143
    old Apollinopolis Magna, and El Kab, the old
    Eileithyiaspolis, were the cities from which they
    set out. It will, perhaps, be best to state that
    Edfu stands on the Nile about half-way between
    Aswan and Luxor

    i.e., about 520 miles above
    Cairo—and that El Kab is situated some 10 miles
    down-stream from Edfu. The Wady Abad enters
    the desert exactly opposite Edfu; the shrine stands
    about 35 miles east of that town ; and the Red
    Sea coast is about 100 miles farther east as the
    crow flies.
    Towards the end of March 1908, when the hot
    south winds were driving the tourists towards
    the sea, and the trains from Luxor to Cairo were
    full to overflowing, the writer and his wife set
    out in the opposite direction, travelling southwards
    in an empty train as far as the little wayside
    station of Mahamid, the nearest stopping-place to
    the ruins of El Kab. The camels which were to
    carry us and our camp to Sety’s temple in the
    desert were awaiting us upon the platform, surrounded
    by an admiring throng of native loafers.
    The caravan, according to orders which were ultimately
    carried out, was to consist of ten baggage
    and four riding camels, and an assortment of camelmen
    under the leadership of a Shekh ; but more
    than double that number of camels lay grunting
    144 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    in the sunlight as the hot train panted into the
    station. This was due to the fact that a rival
    and more wealthy camel proprietor, who had not
    been invited to do business on this occasion, had
    sent a few camels to the rendezvous on the chance
    of their being required, and this move the chosen
    proprietor met by the doubling of the number of
    his camels. The disappointed owner was himself
    at the station, and eloquently dilated upon the
    danger of trusting oneself to a Shekh of inferior
    standing. In the infallible ‘Baedeker’ one reads
    that for this journey it is necessary ” to secure the
    protection of the Shekh of the Ababdeh tribes “
    and though the edition in which these ominous
    words appear is a few years out of date, one
    realised in what a dilemma a traveller who did
    not know the country might have found himself.
    The Shekh, it appeared, had even telegraphed his
    warning to me at the last moment ; but this having
    been really the last of a short series of cards which
    it seems that he had played, it did not require
    many words to soothe matters into the normal
    condition of hullabaloo which everywhere prevails
    in Egypt at the departure of a caravan.
    The baggage at last being dispatched southwards,
    we set out towards the ruins of El Kab,
    which could be seen shimmering in the heat- haze
    The Temple of Wady Abad. 145
    a few miles away. It was our purpose to ride to
    Edfu, thence into the desert, and thence back to
    Edfu and on to Aswan. The first ni^ht was to
    be spent under the ruined walls of the ancient
    city of Eileithyiaspolis, and it did not take long
    to trot to the camping-ground by the river-side.
    Here, in explanation of the route which we followed,
    I must be permitted to enter into some
    archaeological details in connection with El Kab
    and Edfu.
    In archaic days, when the great Hawk-chieftains
    who glimmer, like pale stars, at the dawn of
    history were consolidating their power in Upper
    Egypt before conquering the whole Nile valley,
    there stood a city on the west bank of the river,,
    opposite El Kab, which in later times was known,
    as Hieraconpolis, ” the city of the Hawks.” This;
    was the earliest capital of Upper Egypt, and here
    it is probable that the great king Mena, ” the
    Fighter,” the first Pharaoh of a united Egypt, was
    born and bred. This king and his father conquered
    the whole of Egypt, and for that conquest a certain
    amount of wealth was necessary, even in those
    days when might was as good as money. For this
    purpose, and for the reason that the arts of
    civilisation were already in practice, the gold
    mines of the Eastern Desert began to be worked,
    146 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    This industry led to the establishment of a station
    on the east bank of the river opposite the capital,
    where the miners might foregather, and where the
    caravans and their escort of soldiers might be
    As larger deeds and wider actions became the
    order of the Pharaoh’s day, so the mines were
    extended and the number of workmen increased ;
    and it was not long before the station at El Kab
    grew into a city almost as large as the metropolis.
    In Dynasty XII. (b.c. 2000) a wall was built
    around it, which stands to this day, in order to
    protect it from incursions from the desert. Gradually
    great temples were erected here, and the city,
    now known as Nekheb and later as Eileithyiaspolis,
    was one of the busiest centres in the
    The ruins of the old caravanserai are of wonderful
    interest. One may pass through the narrow
    doorway of the fortified enclosure, and in the silent
    area where once the soldiers and miners camped,
    and where now a few goats graze, one feels completely
    shut off from the world of the present day.
    The dark walls rise around one almost to their full
    height, and one may still ascend and descend the
    sloping ramps where the sentries paced in the olden
    days. Here there are the ruins of the temple
    The Temple of Wady Abad. The east end of the Portico. The
    square pillar was built in Grsco-Roman times to support the
    broken architrave.—Page 155.
    The Temple of Wady Abad. The east wall oi’ the Portico. The king
    is seen smiting- a group of negroes.—Page 156.
    Pl. xxvi.

    The Temple of Wady Abad. 147
    where the vulture-goddess was worshipped ; and
    yonder one sees the mounds of potsherds, bricks,
    corn-grinders, and all the debris of a forsaken town.
    In the side of a hill which overlooks the great
    ramparts one observes the long row of tombs in
    which the princes of the district were buried ; and
    here in the biographical inscriptions on the walls
    one reads of many a feat of arms and many a brave
    The hills of the desert recede in a kind of bay
    here, and if one walks eastwards from the town
    one presently sees that there is, at the back of the
    bay, an outlet through the range, five miles or so
    from the river and the enclosure. It was through
    this natural gateway, which the ancient Egyptians
    called ” the Mouth of the Wilderness,” that the
    caravans passed in early days into the great
    desert ; and once through this doorway they were
    immediately shut off from the green Nile valley
    and all its busy life. There is a great isolated
    rock which stands in the bay ; and in its shadow
    the miners and soldiers were wont to offer their
    last prayers to the gods of Egypt, often inscribing
    their names upon the smooth surface of the stone.
    Here one reads of priests, scribes, caravanconductors,
    soldiers, superintendents of the gold
    mines, and all manner of officials, who were
    148 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    making the desert journey, or who had come to
    see its starting-point.
    In Dynasty XVIII. Amonhotep III. (b.c. 1400)
    erected a graceful little temple here, to which one
    may walk or ride out from El Kab over the level,
    gravel-covered surface of the desert, and may
    stand amazed at the freshness of the colouring of
    the paintings on its wall. Another little shrine
    was built, close by, a century and a half later
    and in Ptolemaic times a third temple was constructed.
    Thus one is surrounded by shrines as
    one sets out over the hills away from this land
    of shrines : it is as though the gods were loath to
    leave one, and in solemn company came out to
    speed the traveller on his way.
    The road which the gold miners trod passed
    through the hills, and then turned off towards the
    south-east ; and presently it met the road which
    started from Edfu, or rather from Contra Apollinopolis
    Magna, which, as has been said, is ten
    miles distant from El Kab. Edfu was also a city
    of great antiquity, and was famous as the place
    where at the dawn of Egyptian history the Hawktribes
    overthrew the worshippers of Set, the god
    who afterwards degenerated into Satan. The
    great temple which now stands there, and which
    The Temple of Wady Abad. 149
    is the delight of thousands of visitors each winter,
    was built upon the ruins of earlier temples where
    the hawk of Edfu had been worshipped since the
    beginning of things. The record of a tax levied
    on Edfu in the reign of Thothmes III. (b.c. 1500)
    shows that it was mainly paid in solid gold, instead
    of in kind ; and one thus sees that the
    precious metal was coming into the country at that
    time along the Wady Abad route, as indeed it was
    along all the great routes. Edfu was the main
    starting-point for the mines in the days when
    Sety I. built his temple, if one may judge from the
    fact that the hawk-god of that city is one of the
    chief deities worshipped in the shrine, while the
    vulture-goddess of El Kab has only a secondary
    place there ; and in Roman times the Edfu road
    was perhaps the only one in general use.
    This was the route which was selected for our
    journey ; and after spending the night at El Kab,
    we rode next morning along the east bank of the
    river to a point at the mouth of the Wady Abad,
    opposite the picturesque town of Edfu, where the
    pylons shoot up to the blue sky and dominate the
    cluster of brown houses and green trees. A morning
    swim in the river, and a trot of somewhat over
    two hours, was sufficient exercise for the first day
    150 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    and the afternoon was spent in camp, while the
    camelmen collected the food for the journey and
    led their beasts down to the river to drink.
    On the following morning, soon after daybreak,
    we mounted our camels and set out over the hard
    sand and gravel towards the sunrise. A fresh,
    cool wind blew from the north, and the larks were
    already singing their first songs, as we trotted up
    the wady. The brisk morning air, the willing
    camels, the setting out into the freedom of the
    desert : how shall one record the charm of it ?
    Only those who have travelled in the desert can
    understand the joy of returning there : a joy
    which, strangely enough, has only one equal, and
    that the pleasure of returning to water, to flowers,
    and to trees after a spell of some days or weeks
    in the wilderness. Here there are no cares, for
    there are no posts nor newspapers ; here there is
    no fretfulness, for one is taking almost continual
    exercise ; here there is no irritation, for man, the
    arch-irritant, is absent ; here there is no debility
    and fag, for one is drinking in renewed strength
    from the strong conditions around. But ever
    enthusiasm, that splendid jewel in the ring of
    life, shines and glitters before one’s eyes ; and all
    one’s actions assume a broader and a happier comThe
    main entrance of the Roman station of Wady Abad, looking
    west from inside the enclosure.— Page 164.
    The piles of stone erected opposite the Temple of Wady Abad.—Page 164.

    The Temple of Wady Abad. 151
    plexion. The desert is the breathing-space of the
    world, and therein one truly breathes and lives.
    A trot of about two hours brought us to the
    well known as Bir AMd. The well is but a small,
    stagnant pool of brackish water, around which a
    few trees grow. There are six acacias, three or
    four small palms, a curious dead-looking tree called
    Heraz by the natives, and a few desert shrubs.
    Some attempt has been made to cultivate a small
    area, but this has not met with success, and the
    native farmers have departed. The sand under
    the acacias offers a welcome resting-place, and here
    in the shade we sat for a while, listening to the
    quiet shuffle of the wind amongst the trees and to
    the singing of the sand-martins. While playing
    idly with the sand an objectionable insect was
    uncovered, which the natives call a “groundgazelle.”
    It is a fat, maggot-like creature, about
    an inch in length, possessing a pair of nippers
    similar to those of an earwig. It runs fast upon
    its six or eight legs, but, whenever possible, it
    buries itself by wriggling backwards into the sand.
    A more loathsome insect could not well be imagined
    ; and, since the species is said to be by no
    means uncommon, one will not delve with the
    fingers so readily in the future as one lies in the
    152 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    shadow of the trees. A ride of about half an
    hour’s duration along the valley and past a Shekh’s
    tomb, known as Abu Gehad, brought us to the
    rained Roman fortified station named after this
    tomb. It is much like other stations of this date,
    and consists of an enclosure in which a few chambers
    are to be seen. One enters from the west,
    and in the open area forming the courtyard there
    is a cemented tank in which a supply of water was
    stored for the use of travellers. The south wall of
    the enclosure to this day looks formidable from the
    outside, still standing some twelve feet in height,
    and being solidly built of broken stones. On this
    side of the station there are traces of an outbuilding,
    which may have been the animal lines.
    In the main enclosure a block of sandstone was
    found bearing the cartouches of the Pharaoh
    Tutankhamen (b.c. 1350), one of the successors of
    the “heretic king” Akhnaton, and by its form it
    seems to have been part of a shrine which perhaps
    had stood at this spot. The road from El Kab
    here joins the Edfu route, and the Pharaoh may
    have marked the meeting of the ways by a little
    wayside temple at which the gold miners might
    offer a prayer to the gods of the wilderness.
    In Roman days when this station was built it is
    probable that the gold mines no longer formed the
    The Temple of Wady Abad. 153
    main objective of the caravans which passed along
    this road. Emeralds, almost unknown to the
    ancient Egyptians, were now deemed an ornamentation
    of worth and beauty ; and the emerald
    mines of Gebel Zabara, which are most easily
    approached along this route, were vigorously
    worked by the Romans. It was on his way to
    these mines that Cailliaud in 1816 discovered
    the temple of Sety I. There was also a road
    from Edfu to the Grseco-Roman port of Berenice
    on the Red Sea, which was much used at this
    period ; and stations similar to that of Abu Gehad
    are to be met with at fairly regular intervals for
    the whole distance to the coast.
    Trotting on for another two hours and a quarter,
    we camped under the rocks of the Gebel Timsah, a
    well – known landmark to travellers. A head of
    rock projects into the level valley, and upon it the
    people of the desert for untold generations have
    set up small heaps of stones, the original idea of
    which must have been connected with religious
    worship. The two tents were no sooner pitched
    than a gale of wind, suddenly rising, tore one of
    them down, and almost succeeded in overthrowing
    the other. A tempest of dust and sand beat in at
    the doorway, and covered all things with a brown
    layer, so that one knew not where to turn nor
    154 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    how to escape. Fortunately, however, like all
    things violent, it did not last for long ; and a
    calm, starlit night followed.
    The distance from Gebel Timsah to the temple
    which was our destination may be covered in
    about an hour and a half of trotting. We set
    out soon after sunrise ; and presently a low ridge
    was crossed, the path passing between two piles
    or beacons of stones, set up perhaps in Roman
    days to mark the road ; and from this point a
    wide, flat valley could be seen, stretching between
    the low hills, and much overgrown with bushes
    and brambles. Over the plain we jogged in the
    cool morning air, directing the camels to a high
    bluif of rock in the east, in which, the guide
    told us, the temple of Sety was excavated. Soon
    a Roman fortress came into sight, and later we
    were able to discern the portico of the temple
    sheltering under the rocks. Slowly the features
    became more distinct, and at last we dismounted
    at the foot of the cliffs and scrambled up the
    slope to explore the picturesque shrine.
    It is strange that of the many Egyptologists
    who have travelled in Egypt, only two, Lepsius
    and GolenischefF, have visited this spot. It may
    be that the statement of the old Baedeker, which
    says that the wandering Ababdeh tribes ” assume
    i, 6, 7. North face of cliff, east of Temple.—Page 158.
    2. Facade of Temple, east side.
    3. Two examples of five similar inscriptions, on cliff east of
    4. On face of cliff just west of Temple.
    5. Face of cliff, west of Temple.—Page 163.
    8. On face of cliff just east of Temple.—Page 162.
    9-14. Facade of Temple, west side.
    15, 16. South-east pillar of Portico.

    Drawings in red paint.
    17. East wall of Portico.

    Drawings i?i red paint.
    Pl. xxviii.

    Pl. xxviii.

    The Temple of Wady Abad. 155
    a hostile attitude ” to travellers, has confined them
    to the banks of the Nile ; or perhaps the reported
    antics of the much-maligned camel have induced
    them to leave unvisited this pearl of the past.
    For that matter, however, the place might be
    reached upon the back of the patient ass, there
    being water at Bir Abad, and, for the last few
    years, at the temple itself. When one sees this
    building, one of the best preserved of all the
    Egyptian temples, one is amazed at the lack of
    enterprise which has caused it to be uncared
    for, unprotected, and unvisited for all these years.
    A few mining engineers and prospectors alone
    have seen the shrine ; and, since they have disfigured
    its walls with their names, one could wish
    that they too had stayed at home.
    The little temple consists of a rectangular hall
    excavated in the rock, the roof being supposed
    to be supported by four square pillars, though
    in reality these also are part of the living rock.
    At the far end there are three shrines in which
    the statues of the gods are carved. In front of
    this hall there is a built portico, the roof of
    which rests upon four columns with lotus -bud
    capitals. One enters from the north, up the
    slope of fallen stones and driven sand, and so
    passes into the shade of the portico. Through
    156 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    a hole in the roof, where a slab of stone has
    fallen in, one may look up at the towering rocks
    which overhang the building. Then, through a
    beautifully ornamented doorway, one passes into
    the dimness of the rock-cut hall, where one may
    be conscious that the whole height of the hill
    rests above ones head. Both this hall and the
    portico are richly decorated with coloured reliefs,
    and in the inner portions of the temple one stands
    in wonder at the brightness of the colours in
    the scenes which are seen on all sides. It has
    been said that the brilliancy of the painting in
    the temple of Amonhotep III. at El Kab is surprising
    ; but here it is still fresher, and has even
    more admirably held its own against the assaults
    of time. We see the Pharaoh smiting down his
    negro and Asiatic enemies in the presence of
    Amen Ra and Horus of Edfu ; we watch him as
    he makes offerings to the gods ; and to the ceiling
    the eye is attracted by the great vultures with
    spread wings which there hover above one, depicted
    in radiant colours rendered more radiant
    by contrast with the browns and the yellows
    of the scenery outside. In the niches at the
    end of the hall the gods sit in serenity ; and,
    though these figures have been damaged almost
    beyond recognition by pious Musslemans, there
    i, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9. North face of cliff, east of Temple.—Page 157.
    3. Smaller of two large fallen rocks, east of Temple.—Page 157.
    6, 7, 10. Larger of two fallen rocks, east of Temple.—Page 157.
    Pl. xxix.

    Pl. xxix.

    The Temple of Wady Abad. 157
    still clings around them their old majesty, and
    still one may find something solemn in their
    attitude, so that one almost pays heed to the
    warning inscribed on the doorway that a man
    must be twice purified before entering the little
    sanctuary where they sit.
    It may be asked why Sety selected this spot for
    his temple, for, except that it lies on the route to
    the mines, the reason for its location is not at once
    apparent. The explanation, however, is not far to
    seek. This great bluff of rock has a smooth clifflike
    surface on its north side, and for the earliest
    travellers, as for those of the present day, it has
    cast a welcome shadow in which one might take
    the midday siesta in comfort. Here, scratched or
    chiselled on the rock, there are very many drawings
    which undoubtedly date from archaic, and
    even prehistoric, times. Numerous representations
    of curious boats are seen, and their character
    justifies one in supposing them to be the sacred
    arks which formed in ancient times such an
    essential part of Egyptian religious ceremonial.
    In most of these vessels one sees the shrine which
    contained the god, and in one drawing a figure
    with flail raised, before which an animal is being
    sacrificed, is certainly the god Min himself, the
    patron of the desert. A few animals and figures
    158 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts,
    are also drawn, and when human beings are represented
    in or near the arks their arms are shown
    held aloft in the regular Egyptian attitude of
    Thus it seems that, from being a place to rest
    and to dream in, the rock had already in archaic
    times become a sacred spot, at which early man
    bowed himself down before the representations of
    the ark of Min. From this period until Dynasty
    XVIII. it seems, from the lack of inscriptions here,
    that the mines were not much used. Amonhotep
    III., however, sent his Viceroy of the South out
    here, whose name, Merimes, is written upon the
    rocks near the temple ; and his temple at El Kab,
    at the beginning of the route, is a further indication
    of his interest in the gold workings. Just
    as this king had built his temple near the sacred
    rock at ” the Mouth of the Wilderness,” so Sety I.,
    following half a century later, decided to erect his
    shrine at the foot of this more distant sacred rock,
    the half distance having been already adventured
    by the intermediate Pharaoh Tutankhamen. Since
    the place was just about a day’s express ride from
    Edfu and El Kab, its situation was convenient
    and, moreover, there was no other head of rock
    in the neighbourhood which offered so fine a
    position for a rock temple.
    The Temple of Wady Abad. 159
    In the inscriptions near the mouth of the excavated
    portion of the shrine, Sety caused to be
    recorded the story of the building of the temple
    and parts of this are of sufficient interest to be
    quoted here :

    In the year 9 (b.c. 1304), the third month of the third
    season, the twentieth day. Lo ! his majesty inspected the
    hill-country as far as the region of the mountains, for his
    heart desired to see the mines from which the gold is
    brought. Now when his majesty had gone out from the
    Nile valley, he made a halt on the road, in order to take
    counsel with his heart ; and he said, ” How evil is the way
    without water ! It is so for a traveller whose mouth is
    parched. How shall his throat be cooled, how shall he
    quench his thirst ?—for the lowland is far away, and the
    highland is vast. The thirsty man cries out to himself
    against a fatal country. Make haste !—let me take counsel
    of their needs. I will make for them a supply for preserving
    them alive, so that they will thank God in my
    name in after years.” Now, after his majesty had spoken
    these words in his own heart, he coursed through the desert
    seeking a place to make a water-station ; and lo ! the god
    led him in order to grant the request which he desired.
    Then were commanded quarrymen to dig a well upon the
    desert, that he might sustain the fainting, and cool for him
    the burning heat of summer. Then this place was built in
    the great name of Sety, and the water flowed into it in very
    great plenty. Said his majesty, “Behold, the god has
    granted my petition, and he has brought to me water upon
    the desert. Since the days of the gods the way has been
    dangerous, but it has been made pleasant in my glorious
    reign. Another good thought has come into my heart, at
    160 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    command of the god, even the equipment of a town, in
    whose midst shall be a settlement with a temple. I will
    build a resting-place on this spot, in the great name of my
    fathers the gods. May they grant that what I have
    wrought shall abide, and that my memory shall prosper,
    circulating through the hill-country.”
    Then his majesty commanded that the leader of the
    King’s workmen be commissioned, and with him the
    quarrymen, that there should be made, by excavation in
    the mountain, this temple. Now after the stronghold was
    completed and adorned, and its paintings executed, his
    majesty came to worship his fathers, all the gods j and he
    said, ” Praise to you, great gods ! May ye favour me
    forever, may ye establish my name eternally. As I have
    been useful to you, as I have been watchful for the things
    which ye desire, may ye speak to those who are still to
    come, whether kings, princes, or people, that they may
    establish for me my work in this place, on behalf of my
    beautiful temple in Abydos.”
    The last words tell us for what purpose this
    route to the gold mines had been bettered. A
    second long inscription is devoted to blessings on
    those who keep up this shrine and the mines with
    which it was connected, and to curses on those
    who allow it to fall into neglect. A third inscription
    is supposed to give the speech of the
    travellers who have benefited by the king’s
    thoughtfulness :

    Never was the like of it (the temple and the well) made
    by any king, save by the King Sety, the good shepherd,
    The Temple of Wady Abad. 161
    who preserves his soldiers alive, the father and mother of
    all. Men say from mouth to mouth, ” Amen, give to him
    eternity, double to him everlastingness ; for he has opened
    for us the road to march on, when it was closed before us.
    We proceed and are safe, we arrive and are preserved
    alive. The difficult way which is in our memory has become
    a good way. He has caused the mining of the gold
    to be easy. He hath dug for water in the desert far from
    men for the supply of every traveller who traverses the
    Sety dedicated his temple to Amen Ha, whom he
    identified with Min, the old god of the place, and
    to Harmachis, the sun-god, whom he seems to have
    identified with the hawk, Horus of Edfu. He alsohere
    worshipped Ptah, the Egyptian Vulcan, and
    his lion-headed consort Sekhmet ; Turn ; Hathory
    the Egyptian Venus ; Nekheb, the vulture-goddess
    of El Kab ; Osiris and Isis ; Mut, the mother goddess
    ; and Khonsu, the moon-god who was the son
    of Amen Ha and Mut, and with them formed the
    royal trinity at Thebes. All these gods one sees
    upon the walls of the temple, and before them
    Sety is shown offering incense, wine, flowers, and
    food. Some inscriptions on the rocks near the
    temple, written by high officials of this period who
    visited the mines, make mention of two other
    deities : Ea, the sun-god, and a strange goddess
    who rides a horse and brandishes a shield and
    162 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    When Sety died the temple was still not quite
    finished, and for some reason or other which
    we shall probably never know, it so remained.
    His temple at Abydos, too, was neglected, and the
    revenues ceased to be collected. Thus, in spite of
    the curses inscribed on the walls of the desert
    shrine, the king’s plans for the continual working
    of the mines, in order to pay for the maintenance
    of his great masterpiece, were not carried out. At
    Abydos Ranieses II., in an inscription written a
    few years later, states that he found the temple
    of Sety there unfinished, and that it had not been
    “completed according to the regulations for it of
    the gold-house.” He, however, finished the building,
    and perhaps re-established the gold workings
    along the Wady Abad route, for on one of the
    pillars of the hall of the desert shrine there is an
    inscription written by an official which reads
    ” Bringing the gold for the festival in the temple
    of Eameses II.”
    Since that time until the present day the gods
    in the sanctuary have looked out at a long stream
    of travellers, soldiers, miners, and officials. Upon
    the rocks and on the walls of the temple there are
    several hieroglyphical and Greek inscriptions which
    tell of the coming of all manner of people. A chief
    of the custodians of El Kab here records his name,
    archaic drawings of sacred boats, animals,
    etc., on rocks near temple of wady
    5 4) 7-, 8, 9, ii, 12, 14. North face of cliff, east of Temple.

    Page 157.
    2, 3, 6, 10, 15, 16, 17. Larger of two fallen rocks, east of Temple.
    —Page 157.
    5. West face of cliff projection, east of Temple.— Page 157.
    13. Smaller of two fallen rocks, east of Temple.—Page 157.
    Pl. xxx.

    Pl. xxx.

    The Temple of Wady Abad. 163
    and a scribe of the kings troops is immortalised
    near by. Many of the Greek inscriptions are exvotos
    dedicated to Pan, with whom the old Min
    had been identified ; and as the latter was the god
    of desert travel, so the sprightly Pan becomes the
    sober patron of the roads. Miners from Syracuse
    and from Crete tell of their advent ; and one
    traveller describes himself as an Indian, a voyager,
    perhaps, in one of those trading vessels which
    brought to the port of Berenice the riches of the
    East, to be conveyed across this great desert to the
    markets of Alexandria. A man named Dorion
    states that he had returned in safety from an
    elephant hunt, probably in the south. Two inscriptions
    are written by Jews, thanking God for
    their safe journeys ; and it is interesting to notice
    that one of them is called Theodotus, son of
    Dorion, and the other Ptolemy, son of Dionysius

    all pagan names. A troop of Greek soldiers have
    recorded their names in the temple, and state that
    they kept a watch before “Pan of the Good
    These travellers, besides, or instead of, writing
    their names, seem often to have piled a few stones
    at conspicuous points as a memorial of their
    passage. At various places in the neighbourhood,
    and especially at the foot of the hills opposite
    164 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    the temple, there are many such piles of stones
    and when well built they rise from the rocks like
    altars, three feet or so in height, and perhaps two
    feet in diameter. In one or two cases there are
    fragments of old Egyptian pottery lying beside
    them, and there seems no question that they are
    connected with religious worship. The same custom
    still prevails amongst the desert people,
    though now its significance is not remembered
    and yet its meaning is not entirely forgotten, for
    on a hill-top near the temple we found, near such a
    pile of stones, three pairs of gazelle horns and a
    collection of Red Sea shells pierced for stringing, a
    modern offering to the old gods.
    In Graeco-Roman times a large fortified station
    was constructed near the temple, and this still
    stands in fairly good preservation. It is built in
    the plain in front of the temple, not more than a
    hundred yards from the foot of the cliffs. The
    enclosure is somewhat larger than is usual in these
    stations, but the greater part of the area has never
    been built upon. The enclosing wall still stands
    to a height of ten feet or so in parts, but here and
    there it is almost entirely ruined. It is built in
    three thicknesses, so that on the inside there are
    two heights at which one might walk around the
    rampart without showing above it. One enters
    The Temple of Wady Abad. 165
    through a well-built masonry doorway, and on
    either side one may see the hole into which the
    beam was shot to close the wooden door at nights.
    On one’s right there is a group of small chambers ;
    and here an isolated house, in one wall of which a
    window is still intact, forms the best-preserved
    portion of the ruin. On one’s left there is a large
    hall, in which there was a tank, parts of which,
    now half-choked with sand, can be seen. The next
    building on one’s left is also a hall of considerable
    size—the common mess – room, probably, of the
    travellers. One then passes into the open courtyard,
    which bears off to the left, or north, and does
    not contain more than a trace or so of walls.
    Although one sees so many of these Roman
    stations in the Eastern Desert, their charm and
    interest never palls; and, more than any other
    ancient buildings, they bring back the lost ages
    and recall the forgotten activities of the old world.
    These ruins, too, are always picturesque, and
    gather to themselves at dawn and at sunset the
    hues, the lights, and the shadows of the fairest
    fancy. At dawn, at noon, at sunset—all day long
    —this fortress in the Wady Abad is beautiful ; and
    for those who love the desert there is here and in
    its surroundings always some new thing to charm.
    The walls of the enclosure, and beyond them the
    1 66 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    pillared portico of the temple sheltering under the
    rugged brown cliffs, form as delightful a picture
    as may be found in Egypt. As one sits in the blue
    shadow one may watch the black-and-white stonechats
    fluttering from rock to rock, and overhead
    there circles a vulture, as vividly coloured as those
    which form the ceiling decoration in the temple.
    The wide flat plain, shut in by the distant hills on
    all sides, entices one from the fortress on to its
    sparkling surface, though the tumbled rocks near
    the temple soon call one back to their breezy
    humps and shady nooks. The hundred surrounding
    hill-tops vie with one another in the advertisement
    of their merits, and one attains a summit but
    to covet a further prospect. Or, attracted by the
    two or three trees and the few bushes which grow
    in the plain over against the fortress, one walks to
    their welcoming shade ; and there one may listen
    to the song of the sand-martins and to the strange,
    long-drawn note of the finches.
    11 A book of verses underneath the bough . . • .”
    One knows now what the old philosopher desired
    to express ; for the wilderness is indeed Paradise,
    and here one may find the true happiness.
    The day slips past in a half-dream of pleasure ,
    and to the student of archaeology, who finds so
    4 / X£Y~ /^C^rciTHNQHPAN ^;
    Greek inscription relating- to an elephant hunt, on a rock to the
    east of the Temple of Wady Abad.—Page 163.
    Scale of Metr 123456789 10
    Sketch-plan of the Temple o\’ Wady Abad.
    Pl. xxxi.

    The Temple of Wady Abad. 167
    much for his pencil to record and his mind to consider,
    the hours race by at an absurd speed. The
    two days which we spent here passed like an afternoon’s
    dream, and the memories which remain in
    the mind are almost too slight to record. Writing
    here in the study one reconstructs the rugged
    scene, and searches for the incidents which gave
    gentle colour to it. There was a flight of cranes,
    which sailed overhead, moving from south-east to
    north-west, on their way to spend the summer in
    Europe. Why should one’s memory recall so
    charmedly the passage of a hundred birds ? There
    was a hyaena which, in the red dusk, stood upon a
    hill-top to watch us, and presently disappeared.
    There were three vultures which rose from the
    bones of a dead camel, soared into the sky, and
    alighted again when we had passed. There came
    a flock of goats and sheep at noonday to the well,
    with much bleating and with the gentle patter of
    many hoofs. The shepherd in his picturesque
    rags eyed us curiously as his charges drank, and,
    still watching us, passed down the wady towards
    the west when they had quenched their thirst.
    And so one’s memory wanders over the two days,
    recalling the trivialities, and passing over the more
    precise details of camp life and of work, until presently
    one sees the tent struck and the baggage
    1 68 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    bumping down the valley once more on the backs
    of the grunting camels. The return journey to
    Edfu was soon accomplished, and the accumulated
    mail of five or six days which was in waiting at
    the end of the ride quickly brought one back to
    the business of life, and relegated the Wady Abad
    to the store-chamber of happy recollections.
    Opposite the town of Aswan, a short distance
    below the First Cataract of the Nile, there rises
    an island known to travellers by its Greek name
    of Elephantine. The river sweeps down from the
    cataract to east and west ; southwards one maywatch
    it flowing around a dozen dark clumps of
    granite rocks, which thrust themselves, as it were,
    breathless above the water ; and northwards almost
    without hindrance it passes between the hills and
    palm-trees of the mainland. Nowadays should
    one stand upon the mounds which mark the site
    of the ancient city of Elephantine, and look east
    and north, one would feel that modern civilisation
    had hidden for ever the scenes of the past, and
    had prevented the imagination from re-picturing
    the place as it was in the elder days. The huge
    Cataract Hotel overshadows the ruined city, and
    stares down from its pinnacle of granite on to the
    tumbled stones of ancient temples. On the island
    170 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    itself, opposite this hotel, the elaborate and ultramodern
    rest-house of the Ministry of Public Works
    rises amidst its terraced gardens ; and farther to
    the north stands the imposing Savoy Hotel, surrounded
    by luxuriant trees and flowers unknown
    to the ancient Egyptians. Eastwards the long,
    neat promenade of Aswan edges the river, backed
    by the Grand Hotel, the Government offices, and
    other large buildings ; and at one end the noisy
    railway station tells the insistent tale of the
    Present. During the winter one may watch the
    busy launches and small craft plying to and fro,
    and may see the quality and fashion of Europe
    amusing itself at either end of the passage ; while
    at night the brilliant lights blaze into the waters
    of the Nile from a thousand electric lamps, and
    the sounds of the latest valse drift out through
    open windows. The place is modern : one sips
    one’s whisky -and -soda above the crushed- down
    remains of Pharaonic splendours, plays tennis in
    a garden laid out above the libraries of the
    Ptolemies, and reads ‘ The Times ‘ where, maybe,
    melancholy Juvenal wrote his Fifteenth Satire.
    But should one turn now to the west and south
    a different impression might be obtained. On the
    island still stands the imposing gateway of the
    rich temple destroyed for the sake of its buildingA
    Nubian Highway. 171
    stone in the days of Muhammed Ali ; and near
    it, only recently, an archaeologist uncovered the
    intact burial vault of the sacred rams of the Nilegod
    Khnum. The rocky hills of the western mainland
    tower above the island, great drifts of golden
    sand carrying the eye from the summit to the
    water’s edge ; and here, cut into the rocks, are
    the tombs of the ancient princes of Elephantine.
    In this direction there is almost nothing that is
    more modern than the ruined monastery of St
    Simeon, built at the head of a sandy valley in
    the early days of Christianity, and destroyed by
    the fierce brother of Saladin in 1173 a.d. With
    one’s back to the hotels, and one’s face to these
    changeless hills, the history of the old city is able
    to be traced with something of the feeling of
    reality to aid the thoughts.
    One period of that history stands out clearly
    and distinctly amidst the dim course of far-off
    events. From being a stronghold of a savage
    tribe the south end of the island had become
    covered by the houses and streets of a fine city,
    named Abu or ” Elephant – City ” (and hence
    Elephantine), no doubt after the elephant symbol
    of its chieftain. The feudal tendencies of the Yth
    and Vlth Dynasties—about B.C. 2750 to 2475 —
    had brought power and wealth to the local princes
    172 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    in many parts of Egypt ; and here the family of
    the chieftains of the island had begun to rise to
    a degree of some importance. This was largely
    due to the fact that to them was intrusted the
    office of ” Keeper of the Door of the South,” and
    the protecting of the Egyptian frontier at the
    First Cataract from invasion by the negro tribes
    The city rose amidst its trees and rocks at the
    foot of the cataract, at a point where in those days
    the river still ran swift, and where the distant roar
    of waters continuously drummed upon the ears.
    On the eastern mainland opposite the island stood
    the huts and hovels of the great ‘Swanu, or market,
    which gave its name to the latter town of Aswan
    and here the negroes, coming ‘ from the upper
    reaches of the river by the valley road which
    avoids the rocks of the cataract, met and traded
    with the inhabitants of Elephantine. At the far
    end of this road the barren islands of Philse, Bigeh,
    and others were regarded as neutral ground, and
    the rocks of the mainland were not yet forbidden
    territory to the Egyptians for some miles upstream.
    But beyond this the country was little
    known, and those who penetrated into it took
    their lives in their hands.
    A Nubian Highway. 173
    First there came the land of the Kau tribes ;
    and then, farther to the south, the Wawat on the
    east bank and the Sethu on the west dwelt in
    barbaric independence. Still farther to the south
    lived the warlike Mazoi, who might sometimes be
    seen at the market, ostrich feathers in their hair
    and bows and clubs in their hands. The land of
    Arthet lay to the south again ; and lastly, not
    much below the Second Cataract and the modern
    Wady Haifa, there lived the almost unknown
    people of Aam.
    Who dwelt to the south of this the Egyptians
    did not know. That territory was ” The Land of
    the Ghosts ” : the perilous borders of the world,
    and the misty ocean into which no man had penetrated,
    were there to be encountered. To the
    inhabitants of the brilliant little metropolis the
    peoples of the upper river appeared to be a hazy
    folk ; and the farther south their land the more
    mysterious were their surroundings and the
    ghostlier their ways. The negroes who came to
    the market no doubt told stories then, as they
    did in later times, of the great stature and the
    marvellous longevity of those distant races ; and
    though but a couple of hundred miles of winding
    river separated the Egyptian frontier from that
    174 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    of the land of Aam, that distance sufficed to
    twist the thoughts of the market-gossiper from
    the mortal to the immortal.
    In archaic times an unknown Egyptian king
    had penetrated some sixty miles up the river, and
    had left a record on one of the rocks; 1 and King
    Sneferu of the Illrd Dynasty had devastated a
    part of the country. But from that time until
    the beginning of the Vth Dynasty the land and
    its people, left unmolested, had drifted once more
    into the pale regions of mystery. As the nobles of
    Elephantine grew in wealth and power, however,
    their attention began to be turned with some
    degree of fixidity towards the south ; and when
    the energetic King Sahura came to the throne,
    it was felt that the time had arrived for the
    probing of the mystery.
    The roads which led to the south along the
    eastern bank of the river, and which were used
    by the negroes near the frontier when coming to
    the market, were not practicable for caravans
    bound for distant goals ; and the Egyptians
    1 The various rock-inscriptions of Lower Nubia mentioned in this
    chapter were found during a tour which I made in that country in the
    autumn of 1906, and are recorded in my ‘ Report on the Antiquities
    of Lower Nubia and their Condition in 1906-7,’ published for the
    Egyptian Government by the University Press, Oxford. The evidence
    for the locating of the various tribes is also given there.
    The Inscribed Rock, from the north-west. —Pages 181-183.
    The Inscribed Rock, from the south-west.
    Pl. xxxii.

    A Nubian Highway. 175
    turned their eyes, therefore, to the western hills,
    behind which the sorrowful lands of the Dead
    were somewhere situated. Almost exactly opposite
    the city lay a sand-covered valley, in which
    now stands the ruined monastery mentioned
    above. From the island a boat carried one across
    to the little reedy bay, from whence a trudge of
    half a mile or so over the soft sand brought one
    on to the upper levels of the desert. Looking
    towards the north, the road which led eventually
    to Lower Egypt was to be seen ; to the west the
    eye wandered over the undulating wilderness to
    the far horizon, made awful by the presence of
    the Dead ; and to the south the sand-drifts and
    the rocky hillocks hid the untravelled paths to
    Aam and the Land of the Ghosts. Keeping the
    river on the left hand, it seemed to the Egyptians
    that they might here pass over the upper desert
    as far as the gods permitted men to penetrate
    and a descent to the Nile at any convenient point
    would bring them, like a bolt from heaven, upon
    the tribes there settled.
    The army of Sahura—perhaps a thousand men
    with numerous baggage-donkeys—set out along
    this road, and after a march of a few days as
    nearly straight ahead as possible, struck the river
    (which bends towards the west) at a point in the
    176 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    land of Arthet, now known as Tomas. A tribute
    was no doubt collected from the rich fields which
    there border the Nile ; an inscription recording
    the name of one of the captains was cut upon a
    convenient face of rock ; and the army returned to
    Egypt to publish its heroism in the streets of
    Elephantine. Another expedition in the reign
    of King Asesa followed after a few years, the
    event being again recorded on the rocks. Farther
    than Arthet, however, these armed forces did not
    venture to go ; nor was this Nubian highroad
    used with great frequency during the following
    About the year 2500 B.C. a prince of Elephantine
    named Herkhuf made up his mind to penetrate
    farther towards the mysterious lands of the south.
    It is forty-four centuries since he set out over the
    desert, with the wind whistling past his ears and
    the powerful sun warming his bones and his heart
    within him ; yet the story of his adventures may
    still be read, the path by which he travelled may
    still be discerned, and the names of his captains
    may still be seen on the rocks of the land of
    Arthet. Herkhuf, having obtained the necessary
    order from the Pharaoh, set out with his father
    Ara, ” in order,” as he says, ” to explore a road to
    the country of Aam.” The road which he explored
    A Nubian Highway. 177
    and opened up was probably a continuation of the
    route from Elephantine to Arthet, passing not far
    back from the river, and descending to the water
    between Abu Simbel and Wady Haifa in the heart
    of the land of Aam. The expedition was entirely
    successful, and Herkhuf states tbat he was ” very
    greatly praised for it.” Emboldened by the fame
    which his enterprise had brought him, he made
    a second expedition to Aam, and was gone
    from Egypt eight months. A third excursion
    was more adventurous. Herkhuf set out upon
    the ” Oasis-road,” which runs from a point north
    of Aswan to Kurkur Oasis, and thence branches
    to Tomas or Arthet and to the Oasis of Khargeh
    which lies westward, and which in those days was
    inhabited by Libyan tribes. At the Kurkur junction
    Herkhuf met with an army, under the leadership
    of the Prince of Aam, which was on its way
    to chastise these Libyans ; but how the wily
    Egyptian contrived to use it instead as an escort
    to his own men back to Aam, and how he returned
    to Egypt through the hostile territory of Sethu,
    Arthet, and Wawat, with three hundred asses
    laden with the presents of his host, are tales too
    long to narrate here.
    One story only may be recorded in this chapter.
    During a fourth expedition to Aam, Herkhuf had
    178 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    managed to obtain one of the dwarfs or pigmies
    who inhabited a region of the Land of the Ghosts.
    He at once informed the king, now the boy
    Pepy II. ; and in reply he received the following
    letter, which is, perhaps, the earliest example
    in the world’s history of a private communication

    ” I have noted,” writes the King, ” the matter of your
    letter which you have sent to me, in order that I might
    know that you have returned in safety from Aam, with the
    army which was with you. . . . You say in your letter that
    you have brought a dancing pigmy of the god from the Land
    of the Ghosts, like the pigmy which the Treasurer Baurded
    brought from the Land of Fount in the time of Asesa. You
    say to my majesty, ‘Never before has one like him been
    brought by any one who has visited Aam.’ . . . Come
    northward, therefore, to the court immediately, and bring
    this pigmy with you, which you must bring living, prosperous,
    and healthy, from the Land of the Ghosts, to dance
    for the King and to rejoice and gladden the heart of the
    King. When he goes down with you into the vessel,
    appoint trustworthy people to be beside him at either side
    of the vessel : take care that he does not fall into the water.
    When he sleeps at night, appoint trustworthy people who
    shall sleep beside him in his cabin ; and make an inspection
    ten times each night. My majesty desires to see this pigmy
    more than the gifts of Sinai and of Pount. If you arrive
    at court, the pigmy being with you, alive, prosperous, and
    healthy, my majesty will do for you a greater thing than
    that which was done for the Treasurer Baurded in the time
    of Asesa, according to the heart’s desire of my majesty to
    A Nubian Highway. 179
    see this pigmy. Orders have been sent to the chief of the
    New Towns to arrange that food shall be taken from
    every store-city and every temple (on the road) without
    How easy it is to picture the excited boy awaiting
    the arrival of this wonder from the south, or
    to watch in the imagination the long caravan as it
    winds its way over the western hills from Aam to
    Elephantine, where Herkhuf and his prize will take
    ship to Memphis.
    Later in the reign of Pepy II. the tribes of
    Arthet and Wawat revolted, and the Nubian highroad
    echoed with the songs of Egyptian soldiers.
    The commander of the expedition, named Pepynakht,
    slew a large number of the unfortunate
    negroes, took many prisoners, and collected a great
    quantity of plunder. It was perhaps during this
    disturbance that a certain prince of Elephantine,
    named Mekhu, was murdered in Arthet. News of
    his death was brought to his son Sabna by a ship’s
    captain who had himself escaped. Sabna immediately
    collected a few soldiers and a hundred
    baggage -donkeys, bearing presents of honey, oil,
    ointment, and fine linen, and set out upon the
    same highroad towards Arthet. By the judicious
    use of his oil and honey he was able to discover
    the body of his father ; and, loading it upon a
    180 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    donkey, he commenced the return journey. Before
    he was clear of Arthet, however, he found it
    necessary to avert an attack by presenting a
    sullen negro chieftain with an elephant’s tusk
    three cubits in length, at the same time hinting
    that his best tusk was six cubits in length. But
    how the expedition arrived safely at Elephantine,
    and how Sabna buried his father there in the
    western hills behind the modern Savoy Hotel,
    and how he was rewarded by the king for his
    really plucky undertaking, cannot be here related
    at length.
    There was now no more mystery about the
    country on this side of the Second Cataract, and
    by the perseverance of these princes of Elephantine
    the way was made ready for the conquest of the
    Sudan, which the Egyptians commenced in the
    XHth Dynasty and completed in the XVIIIth.
    We of the present day cannot, perhaps, appreciate
    how much pluck and obstinacy these nobles required
    in the undertaking of these expeditions.
    Not only were they penetrating into lands which
    were inhabited by the most savage tribes, but they
    believed these tribes to be endowed with superhuman
    powers. From childhood they had heard
    stories of their magical power ; while in pushing
    their way into the distant land of Aam they
    A Nubian Highway. 181
    assuredly expected to encounter those ghosts who
    hovered at the edge of the world. Their caravan
    routes over the western hills ran dangerously near
    the terrible territory of the Dead ; and, to their
    superstitious minds, their daily marches and their
    nightly camps were beset by monsters and by
    bogies compared to which the fierce Mazoi were
    as nought.
    The reader who finds interest in the picture of
    Herkhuf exploring the roads of Aam, and of Sabna
    searching for his father’s body in hostile Arthet,
    will ask whether any definite traces of the highroad
    still remain. One would have thought that
    after four thousand four hundred years it would
    have utterly disappeared ; but this is not the case.
    Let the visitor to Aswan step out some afternoon
    from the hall of his hotel, where the string band
    throbs in his ears and the latest Parisian gowns
    shimmer before his eyes, and let him take boat
    to the little western bay behind the ruins of
    Elephantine. Here in the late afternoon the long
    blue shadows fall, and he may walk in coolness
    over the sand towards the monastery which stands
    on the higher ground before him. At the top of
    the hills to his left he will presently see, some
    distance away, a large isolated boulder near the
    tomb of some old Mussleman saint ; and making
    1 82 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    his way up the hillside towards this boulder, he
    will suddenly come upon a paved causeway x which
    sweeps up over the sand to the rocky summit.
    Bough flat blocks of sandstone form the paving,
    and these are only here and there overwhelmed
    by the drifting sand, though it is evident that the
    road has been entirely buried at the point where
    it approaches the water.
    Mounting to the hill-top, the causeway is seen
    to pass within a few yards of the great boulder
    which one now finds to have been surrounded
    by a rough wall, as though to form a kind of
    sanctuary or chapel. On the sides of the rock
    there are several inscriptions recording the coming
    of various officials of the Empire—tax-collectors,
    superintendents of the Nubian gold mines, and
    so on. It is evident from this that the road
    was used for many a long year after Herkhuf
    and Sabna had done with it ; though now it
    possessed for the travellers no terrors, nor did it
    lead any more to the Land of the Ghosts.
    At the point where the causeway passes the
    boulder the hard surface of the upper desert
    literally bristles with countless little heaps of
    stones, each consisting of a small, upright slab
    1 I can hardly suppose that I am the first to observe this road, and
    yet I can find no reference to it in any publication.
    A Nubian Highway. 183
    of rock, held in place by two or three others.
    Fragments of pottery indicate that a bowl, perhaps
    containing water, had been placed beside each
    pile. Here, then, are the memorials of the travellers
    who set out for distant Arthet from the fair
    city on the island, which may from here be seen
    floating in the blue waters of the Nile below.
    These stones are the prayers of those who asked
    a prosperous journey from the gods of their city
    from the old ram-headed Khnum who lived in the
    dark caverns below the Nile ; from Satet, the
    horned goddess whose bow and arrows were the
    terror of her enemies ; and from Anuket with the
    crown of lofty feathers. For a short distance one
    may follow the paved road now, as it passes southwards
    and westwards amidst the blackened rocks
    and golden sand-drifts of this lifeless land ; but
    presently it tops a deeply shadowed ridge of rock
    and sand, and so descends into, and is lost amidst,
    the wide, undulating desert, ablaze with the light
    of the setting sun.
    There are not many persons who will find themselves
    able to follow the road by camel, as I did,
    or to take ship up the Nile, to Arthet, in order to
    see the terminus of the first part of the highway.
    The road descends to the river behind the rich
    fields of the straggling village of Tomas, near Derr,
    184 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    the present capital of Lower Nubia. The scenery
    here is beautiful in the extreme. A short distance
    down-stream a bluff of rock, projecting to
    the water’s edge, and half-covered with drift-sand,
    marks the probable boundary between Arthet and
    Sethu. One might slide here from the top of the
    bluff down the golden slopes to the verdant thornbushes
    wThich dip towards the river, and from
    either side of the track one’s figure would be seen
    sharply against the deep blue of the sky. Sliding,
    one would see on the left the rocks and the sand
    of Sethu, and distantly the superb array of the
    mountains of Wawat ; while on the right the green
    bay into which the road descended would lie spread
    as a feast to the eye. Farther up-stream a wooded
    island lies in the Nile, whither the inhabitants
    must often have fled at the approach of the
    Egyptians from the desert.
    On the low cliffs which form the backing of this
    bay many a captain of an expedition or master of
    a caravan has written his name, and sometimes a
    date has been added. ” The Superintendent of all
    the caravan- conductors of the Land of the South :
    Sabna “
    ” the Captain of the Soldiers : Akab “
    ” the Captain of the ships of Asesa : Khnumhotep

    ” the sixth year : written by the Captain
    of the soldiers . . .” ; these are examples of the
    The Elephantine Road, looking- along- it towards Aswan.—Page 182.
    of the islands in the river, &c, from near the
    Inscribed Rock at the head of the Elephantine Road.
    Pl. xxxiii.

    A Nubian Highway. 185
    inscriptions which were here cut into the surface
    of the rock, and which to the archaeologist are
    of the first importance. A caravan -conductor
    named Ara, who is probably to be identified with
    the father of Herkhuf, has left his name here ; and
    more than one Sabna occurs. But perhaps the
    most interesting of these records are three short
    inscriptions which tell of an expedition to Arthet
    under the almost unknown Pharaoh Hornefersa,
    who probably reigned about B.C. 2400. It is in
    one of these inscriptions that the name of this
    country—Arthet—is given, thereby making it
    possible definitely to locate the territory of these
    people, and to identify this highway without
    any further question with the ” Elephantine road “
    referred to in the inscriptions as leading from
    Elephantine to Arthet.
    Above these rocks one steps on to the hard
    surface of the desert, and the eye may travel over
    the broken ground to the north for many a mile,
    and may follow the road by which Herkhuf carried
    home his pigmy, and Sabna his fathers body, until
    the brown rocks meet the blue sky. To the southwest
    the second portion of the highway, leading on
    to Aam, may be followed ; but the point at whicli
    it descends again to the river has not been identified
    though one may safely say that the terminus,
    1 86 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    lay between Abu Simbel and the Second Cataract.
    Here the country has a different aspect. On the
    west bank of the Nile the sand lies thickly, and
    humps itself into low hillocks covered with scrub.
    Between these one may walk in the cool shade of
    groves of sunt and tamarisk, where flocks of goats
    stand dreaming on the pathway and birds sing
    overhead. On the east bank isolated hills of sandstone
    rise suddenly from the plain, and are reflected
    in the river as in a flawless mirror. The land of
    Aam is as beautiful as that of Arthet, though
    altogether different in character.
    The later history of the highway cannot be
    traced in much detail. From the Vllth to the
    Xllth Dynasties the Egyptian Government was
    seldom strong enough at home to attempt to look
    after affairs abroad, and Lower Nubia relapsed
    into a state of independence. Amonemhat, the
    founder of the Xllth Dynasty, about 2000 B.C.,
    was thus obliged to reconquer the country ; but
    his expedition seems to have travelled up the Nile
    and not across the desert. A few reigns later a
    fortress was built at the modern Anaybeh, in the
    land of Arthet, a few miles above the terminus
    of the highway from Elephantine ; and the road
    must now have been used continuously as the
    express route from the city to the fortress. This
    A Nubian Highway. 187
    stronghold is so much ruined and sand- covered
    that it has escaped observation up till now, although
    its position had been ascertained from
    inscriptions. Mention is made of a fortress
    named Taray, and its distance from a certain
    known place is given, which exactly locates it
    at Anaybeh. At about the same date a large
    fortress was built on the west bank at the
    Second Cataract, and at the extreme north end
    of the highroad the walls of Elephantine were
    now strengthened.
    Above the Second Cataract lay the land of
    Kush, and as civilisation advanced southwards
    the territory of the Ghosts had perforce to retreat
    before it. The Egyptians now knew that
    very human negroes inhabited the country beyond
    Aam ; but they could still ask themselves
    in whispers what manner of bogies dwelt to the
    south of Kush. While the immortals were falling
    back, however, the mortals from above the Second
    Cataract were surely pushing forward. The people
    of Aam were slowly being displaced by them, and
    in consequence were hustling the tribes of Arthet.
    During the reign of Senusert III. (1887 B.C.) the
    incursions of the negroes of Kush assumed the
    proportions of an invasion, and the Egyptians
    were obliged to wag© an expensive and lengthy
    1 88 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    war upon them. When at last they were driven
    back beyond the Second Cataract, the Pharaoh
    set up a boundary -stone there; and the words
    which he ordered to be inscribed upon it show
    plainly enough what a surprise it was to him to
    find that his enemies had possessed none of those
    superhuman powers which his subjects had attributed
    to them.
    u Why,” he says, ” they are not a mighty people after all
    they are poor and broken in heart. My majesty has seen
    them ; it is not an untruth. I captured their women, I
    carried off their subjects, went forth to their wells, smote
    their bulls. I reaped their grain, and set fire thereto. I
    swear as my father lives for me I speak in truth, without a
    lie therein coming out of my mouth.”
    The last sentence tells of the king’s fear lest
    tradition should conquer proven fact, and his
    soldiers should endow the negroes of Kush with
    those mysterious powers of which their close
    proximity to the Land of the Ghosts and the
    end of the world gave them the use.
    During the XVIIIth Dynasty (1580-1350 B.C.)
    the highroad was used continuously both by the
    troops which were being launched against the
    Sudan, and by the officials who came to collect
    the taxes or to administer the laws. Great
    changes had taken place since the old days,
    A Nubian Highway. 189
    The Land of the Ghosts had disappeared almost
    entirely from the geography, though still it might
    exist somewhere above Khartum. The people of
    Aam, now more correctly called Emaam, had entirely
    absorbed Arthet, and Sethu had fallen to
    the share of Wawat. Persons travelling by the
    highroad, and descending to the river at Tomas
    or near the Second Cataract, Egypt desert safari  found themselves in
    the sphere of influence of Emaam at either place.
    One obtains some idea of the inhabitants of this
    once mysterious land from a painting in the tomb
    of Huy, the viceroy of the south, at Thebes. Here
    one sees a procession of negro princes who have
    come to do homage to the Pharaoh’s representative.
    They have evidently travelled by the highroad, for
    the Prince of Emaam rides in a heavy chariot
    drawn by two bulls, while his retinue walk behind
    him. A prince of Wawat is also shown;
    while the chieftains of Kush are there in numbers,
    bringing with them the produce of their country.
    Their clothes are more or less Egyptian in style,
    and their wealth in gold is such as an Egyptian’s
    eyes might stare at. In this sober, prosperous
    company one looks in vain for a sign of that
    savage ferocity which made them the terror of
    In the XlXth Dynasty (1350-1205 B.C.), when
    190 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    the armies of Rameses the Great and his successors
    passed up to the wars in the Sudan, the
    Elephantine road must have been one of the main
    routes of communication. The name of Rameses
    the Great is writ large upon the rocks of Tomas,
    in contrast to the modest little records of those
    infinitely greater men of the early days. Not so
    long afterwards it was the people of the Sudan
    who were using the road to march on Egypt, and
    soon the Egyptians were obliged to bow the knee
    to a negro Pharaoh. Later, when they were once
    more the masters of their own affairs, the taxgatherers
    returned to Emaam, and the names of
    some have been left on the road.
    At this time Elephantine had become a city of
    considerable wealth and importance. Splendid
    temples rose amidst the houses and the trees,
    and fortified walls around the south end of the
    island frowned down upon the swift river. Priests,
    soldiers, and nobles walked the streets amongst
    the throng of the townspeople, or sailed to and
    fro over the broken waters. At the foot of the
    western hills, the bay from which the Nubian
    highway ran must have often been the scene of
    the busy loading and unloading of pack-donkeys

  • the habitations of present-day men.
    In the reach of the Nile between Quft and Keneh,
    a few miles below Luxor, the river makes its
    nearest approach to the Red Sea, not more than
    110 miles of desert separating the two waters at
    this point. From Quft, the ancient Koptos, to
    Kossair, the little seaport town, there runs the
    great highroad of ancient days, along which the
    Egyptians travelled who were engaged in the
    Eastern trade. It happened by chance that this
    route led through the Wady FowTakhieh in which
    the famous quarries were situated ; and in the
    last chapter I have recorded an expedition made
    to that place in 1907. From the quarries I set
    out with my three friends for the sea ; and, as the
    route from the Nile to Wady Fowakhieh has already
    been described, it now remains to record its
    continuation eastwards and our journeying upon it.
    The history of this highroad is of considerable
    interest, for it may be said to be the most ancient
    The Red Sea Highroad. 57
    of the routes of which the past has left us any
    record ; and its hard surface has been beaten down
    by the fall of feet almost continuously from the
    dawn of human things to the present day. It has
    been thought by some that a large element of the
    prehistoric inhabitants of the Nile valley came
    into Egypt by this road. Excavations at Quft
    (Koptos) have shown the city to date from
    Dynasty I., if not earlier; and the great archaic
    statues of Min, the god of the desert, one of which
    is to be seen at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford,
    were here found. The ancient Egyptians always
    believed that the home of their ancestors was in
    the land of Pount, the region around Suakin ; and
    since so many archaic remains have been found at
    Koptos, the terminus of a route which in historical
    times was sometimes used by persons travelling to
    Pount, it seems not unlikely that there was a
    certain infiltration of Pountites into Egypt by way
    of Kossair and Quft. These people travelling in
    ships along the coast, Arabians sailing from the
    eastern shores of the Red Sea, or Bedwin journeying
    by land from Sinai and Suez, may have passed
    over this road to trade with the inhabitants of
    Upper Egypt ; but, on the other hand, there is no
    evidence to show that any extensive immigration

  • or invasion took place. The coast of the Red Sea
    58 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    is utterly barren, and the wells are few in number
    and one could more readily imagine the prehistoric
    inhabitants of Egypt pushing eastwards on hunting
    expeditions until they encountered the sea, and
    thus opening up the route, than one could picture
    these Eastern peoples penetrating from an untenable
    base to a hostile country at the dawn of
    known days.
    Upon the archaic statues of the god Min at
    Koptos there are many rude drawings scratched
    on the stone surface. These represent pteroceras
    shells, the saws of sawfish, a stag’s head, the forepart
    of an elephant, a hyaena, a young bull, an
    ostrich, and a flying bird. It is evident that these
    drawings would not have been scratched upon the
    statue of the tribal god without some sort of meaning
    being attached to them, and it seems probable
    that one may see in them the articles of commerce
    which the people of Koptos imported from
    the Red Sea : shells, horn, ivory, feathers, and
    The earliest written record of a journey to
    Kossair dates from Dynasty XL, B.C. 2020, when
    an official named Henu travelled from Koptos to
    Kossair, and thence to Pount. ” The king sent
    me,” says Henu, ” to dispatch a ship to Pount
    to bring for him the fresh myrrh from the chieftains
    The Red Sea Highroad. 59
    of the desert which had been offered to him by
    reason of the fear of him in those countries. Then
    I went forth from Koptos upon the road as his
    Majesty commanded me. Troops cleared the way
    before me, overthrowing those hostile to the king;
    and the hunters and the children of the desert
    were posted as the protection of my limbs. . . .
    Then I reached the Red Sea, and I built this ship,
    and I dispatched it with everything, after I had
    made for it a great oblation of cattle, bulls, and
    ibexes.” Henu, no doubt, carried the material for
    building the vessel across the Egypt desert safari , and settled
    down on the coast to build it, his supplies being
    sent to him from Koptos as often as necessary.
    He tells us in another part of the inscription that
    he dug several wells in the desert ; and one can
    imagine his little company living quite happily
    beside one of these wells near the seashore while the
    vessel was hammered together on the beach below.
    After the lapse of four thousands of years one may
    still picture these scenes : the launching of the
    ship into the blue waters, when the savour of
    burnt -offerings streamed up to heaven, and the
    shouts of the workmen rang across the sandy
    beach ; the tedious journey along the barren coast,
    always the yellow hills upon one’s right and always
    the boundless sea upon one’s left ; the landing on
    60 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    the strange shores of Pount, where the precious
    myrrh-trees abundantly grew and there was talk
    of gold as of a thing of little worth ; where sleek,
    bearded men and amazingly fat women sat at the
    doors of bee-hive huts raised from the ground upon
    piles ; and where, walking abroad, one might meet
    with giraffes and other surprising creatures whose
    existence would not be credited by one’s friends at
    home. An Englishman feels that it would almost
    have been worth the four thousand years of subsequent
    oblivion to have seen what these adventurers
    saw !
    During the next twenty centuries the road
    seems to have been in almost continual use, but
    there are no interesting inscriptions recording
    expeditions made along it, though one may be
    sure that many of the trading expeditions passed
    over this route to the land of Pount. The town
    of Kossair seems to have been called Thaau at
    this period, but in Grseco-Roman days this name
    has developed into Tuau or Duau, a word written
    in hieroglyphs simply with three stars. The
    trade with Arabia and India which flourished
    during the rule of the Ptolemies brought the road
    into very general use, and Kossair became as
    important a trading town as any in Egypt. The
    i, 2. Inscriptions near the archaic inscription on Plate vii.
    3. Old Kingdom inscription, Wady Fowakhieh.
    4. Inscription giving name of King Unas, Wady Fowakhieh.
    Page 39.
    5. 6, 7. Drawings of the Greek period in Wady Fowakhieh.

    Page 5 1
    8. Archaic drawing, Wady Fowakhieh.
    9. Greek inscriptions on blocks of quarried stone, Wady
    Fowakhieh.—Page 50.
    10. 11, 12. Old Kingdom inscriptions at Wady Fowakhieh.
    13. Misspelt inscription of Thothmes III. at Wady Fowakhieh.
    14. Inscription of Rameses IV., Wady Fowakhieh.—Page 46.
    15. 16, 17, 18. Inscriptions on Temple at Wady Fowakhieh.
    Page 49.
    19. Archaic drawing near Bir el Ingliz.—Page 70.
    20. Typical blue-glazed bowl found on ruins of Old Kossair.
    Page 86.
    21-24. Fragments of Temple at Kossair.—Page 81.
    PL. x.

  • egypt desert safari

  • and at this time there may have been a masonry
    A Nubian Highway. 191
    landing-stage at the river’s edge to terminate
    worthily the paved causeway.
    Then came the Greeks and the Romans, and
    one may picture perspiring legionaries hastening
    along the highroad to join Petronius in his chase
    of the one-eyed queen Candace and her flying
    Ethiopians. One may see the agents of Shemsed-
    Dulah, the brother of Saladin, passing along
    to rout out Christianity from Nubia ; and presently
    come the barbaric Mamelukes, driven before
    the armies of Ibrahim Pasha. The last great
    scene in the long history of this most ancient
    highroad was enacted a score of years ago.
    The Dervishes,—the modern inhabitants of the
    Land of the Ghosts,—marching on Egypt from
    the Sudan, picked up the road at the Second
    Cataract, at its early terminus, and headed towards
    Tomas. An English force, travelling southwards,
    met and utterly defeated them some seven
    miles back from the river, behind the village of
    Toshkeh, not far from Abu Simbel. And if one
    journeys direct from the ancient land of Arthet
    to the land of Aam, the bones of the dead and
    the debris of their camp will be found strewn to
    right and left over the surface of the highway.
    Travelling in Egypt one sees so many remains
    192 Travels in Upper Egyptian Deserts.
    of the solemn religious ceremonies of the ancient
    Egyptians, and reading at home one meets with
    so many representations of the sacred rites, that
    it is a real relief to come across some relic, such
    as this highroad, of human energy and toil. In
    the courts of the temples one has pictured the
    processions of the priests and the kneeling throng
    of the people. One has heard in the imagination
    the rhythmic chants, has smelt the heavy incense,
    and has seen the smoke of the sacrifice rising to
    the roof. Glum Pharaohs have stalked across the
    picture, raising their stiff hands to the dull gods
    and rows of bedraggled prisoners have been led
    to the sanctuary, roped in impossible contortions.
    One has visited, or has read of, a thousand tombs ;
    and the slow funerals have passed before one in
    depressing array. But here on this highroad over
    the western hills, where the north wind blows free
    and the kites circle and call above one, where there
    comes vigour into the limbs and ambition into the
    heart, these relics of old adventures appeal with
    wonderful force. Here there are no mysteries
    except the mystery of the land to the south, and
    there are no prayers save the asking of a successful
    journey, and the piling of four stones to the
    honour of the gods. One does not pace through
    holy places whispering ” How weird !
    ” but stick
    A Nubian Highway. 193
    in hand, and whistling a tune down the wind, one
    follows in the footsteps of the bold caravan-masters
    of the past ; and one thanks them from the bottom
    of one’s heart for having played a man’s part on
    their page of the world’s history to serve for all
    time as an example. When the amusements of
    the luxurious hotels have given out, and the
    solemnity of the ancient ruins has begun to pall,
    the spirits of Herkhuf and of Sabna, of the captains
    and the caravan-conductors, are always to
    be found waiting on the breezy hill-tops behind
    the island of Elephantine, at the head of the
    Nubian highway.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *