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of the Excellence of the Waters of the Nile.
There are few wells in Egypt, but their waters are not drank, being unpleasant and unwholesome : the water of the Nile is what they universally make use of in this country, which is looked upon to be extraordinarily wholesome, and at the same time, extremely delicious.
The author of the notes on le Bruyn mentions thisk last circumstance, and takes notice of the Egyptians being wont to excite thirst artificially, that they might drink the more of it; nor is there any reason to doubt of the fact, since Maillet has affirmed the same thing; the only point in which they differ being, that Maillet says, they do this by salt, the other by spices. The account of Maillet, as it is given us by the publisher of his remarks, is indeed so very curious, that I shall set it down here at length.
“ The water of Egypt,” says the Abbè Mascrier,' “ is so delicious, that one would not wish the heat should be less, nor to be delivered from the sensation of thirst. The Turks find it 80 exquisitely charming, that they excite themselves to drink of it by eating salt. It is a common saying among them, that if Mohammed had Tom. 2, p. 103.
Let. 1, p. 15, 16.
drank of it, he would have begged of God not to have died, that he might always have done it. They add, that whoever has once drank of it, he ought to drink of it a second time. This is what the people of the country told me, when they saw me return after ten years’ absence. When the Egyptians undertake the pilgrimage of Mecca, or go out of their country on any other account, they speak of nothing but the pleasure they shall find at their return in drinking the Nile-water. There is nothing to be compared to this satisfaction; it surpasses in their esteem that of seeing their relations again, and their families. Agreeably to this, all those that have tasted of this water allow that they never met with the like in any other place. In truth, when one drinks of it the first time, it seems to be some water prepared by art. It has something in it inexpressibly agreeable and pleasing to the taste ; and we ought to give it perhaps the same rank among waters, which champagne has among wines.
wines. I must confess however it has, to my taste, too much sweet
But its most valuable quality is, that it is infinitely salutary. Drink it in what quantities you will, it never in the least incommodes you.
This is so true, that it is no uncommon thing to see some persons drink three buckets of it in a day,without finding the least inconvenience. .. . When I give such encomiums to the water of Egypt, it is right to observe, that I speak only of that of the Nile, which indeed is the only water there which is drinkable.
Well-water is detestable and unwholesome ; fountains are so rare, that they are a kind of prodigy in that country; and as for the rainwater, it would be in vain to attempt preserving that, since scarce any falls in Egypt.”
The embellishments of a Frenchman may be seen here, but the fact however in gerteral is indubitable.
A person that never before heard of this deficacy of the water of the Nile, and of the large quantities that on that account are drank of it, will, I am very sure, find an energy in those words of Moses to Pharaoh, (Exod. vii. 18,) The Egyptians shall loath to drink of the water of the river, which he never observed before. They will loath to drink of that water which they used to prefer to all the waters of the universe, loath to drink of that which they had been wont eagerly to long for; and will rather choose to drink of well-water, which is in their country so detestable, And as none of our commentators, that I know of, have observed this energy, my reader, I hope, will not be displeased that I have remarked it here.
Method of purifying the Waters of the Nile, when
muddy, through the Inundation of that River.
From this circumstance it is natural to pass on to another, mentioned in the history of this plague, in which probably there is more mean
ing than is commonly understood. And the Lord spake unto Moses, say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood ; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in the vessels of wood and in vessels of stone, Exod. vii. 19. To what purpose this minuteness, this corrupting the water that had been taken up into vessels before the stretching out of the fatal rod ? And if vessels are mentioned at all, why are those of wood and stone distinguished from each other?
But perhaps these words do not signify, that the water that had been taken up into their vessels, was changed into blood. The water of the Nile is known to be very thick and muddy, and they purify it either by a paste made of almonds, or by filtrating it through certain pots of white earth, which is the preferable way, and therefore the possession of one of these pots is thought a great happiness." Now may not the meaning of this passage be, that the water of the Nile should not only look red and nauseous, like blood in the river, but in their vessels too, when taken up in small quantities ; and that no method whatever of purifying it should take place, but whether drank out of vessels of wood, or out of vessels of stone, by means of which they were wont to
Le Bruyn, tom. 2. p. 103. Therenot, part 1. p. 245 and 260.
purge the Nile-water, it should be the same, and should appear like blood ?
Some method must have been used in very carly days to clarify the water of the Nile : the mere letting it stand to settle hardly seems sufficient, especially if we consider the early elegance that obtained in Egypt. So simple an invention then as filtrating-vessels may easily be supposed to be as ancient as the time of Moses; and to them therefore it seems natural to suppose the threatening refers.
The Waters of this River unwholesome at the Com
mencement of the Inundation.
It is common indeed for the Nile-water to turn red, and to become disagreeable, in one part of the year; but this was of a different nature.
Dr. Pococke mentions this fermentation of the Nile, and says, its water turns red, and sometimes green, as soon as the river begins to rise, which, according to him, it generally does about the eighteenth or nineteenth of June; and that this discolouring of the water continues twenty, thirty, or forty days; during which time it is very unwholesome and purging; so that in Cairo they drink at that time, of water preserved in cisterns, under the
? Descr, of the East. vol. 1. p. 199.