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66

RETURN TO CAIRO.

of the principal ports on the Nile, a show is made of a naval force—a kind of gun-boat being fixed immoveably in the mud abreast of the town.

On leaving Minieh, a northerly gale delayed us for several days; for, with all our exertions and the stream in our favour, we could make no way against it.

We reached Boulak on the last day of the ninth week from the time of our leaving Old Cairo.

DEPARTURE FOR SUEZ.

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CHAPTER III.

Departure for Suez—The Ras el Wadi, or Wadi Toumlet–Traces of the Canal of the Ptolemies-Salt Lake Disagreeable Pickle

- Wells of Adjeroud -Suez— Fortifications - Population, &c. -Canal connecting the Red Sea with the Nile-Market of Suez -Climate-Anchorage-Trade-Difficult Navigation of the Gulf of Suez-Steam communication with India — Difficulty of Maintaining it at all Seasons — Advantages of the Line by the Red Sea over that by the Euphrates — Proposed Line by Kosseir Passage of the Red Sea by the Israelites - Failure of all Attempts to disprove the Miracle Land of Goshen—March of the Jews — Return to Cairo - Observations on the Line of the projected Rail-road.

BEING desirous of visiting the Ras el Wadi, a belt of land which has recently been brought into cultivation, that stretches some distance into the great desert of Suez (to which allusion has already been made), we lost no time, on our return to Cairo, in making the necessary arrangements for our journey, the season being already far advanced for travelling over burning sands.

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THE RAS EL WADI.

I started on this excursion, contrary to the advice of all the old Egyptians, just as a dreaded Khampseen wind had set in; and accompanied only by my relative C-, our servants, and two guides, all mounted on dromedaries.

We agreed, after visiting the Ras el Wadi, to proceed to the site of the ancient canal of the Ptolemies, thence to Suez, and return to Cairo by the route across the desert, which the Viceroy has selected for laying down a rail-road.

Taking, therefore, the great Syrian road, we passed through El Hankah; and, diverging slightly to the left, to visit the College of Abouzabel, (of which an account will be found hereafter), regained that road a few miles before it reaches Zoameh. The day was so far spent, however, ere we left the interesting establishment at Abouzabel, that night overtook us before we reached that village.

Having a lively recollection of all the désagreméns experienced at the Capo's house on my way to Cairo from Damietta, we deter

THE RAS EL WADI.

69

mined to encamp for the night in a grove of date-trees, at the outskirts of Zoameh; declining a guard of honour, which the Sheik volunteered to send to watch over our slumbers.

We struck our tent at daybreak, and rode to Belbeis to breakfast, where we were obliged to procure another guide, as we found that neither of the camel drivers that accompanied us was acquainted with the part of the desert we purposed traversing.

Remounting our dromedaries, and keeping a little to the right of the Syrian road on leaving Belbeis, we arrived, in about two hours and a half, at the commencement of the Ras el Wadi, or, as it is sometimes called, the Wadi Toumlet. It is a narrow valley, that stretches about eighteen miles east by north into the heart of the Great Desert, and must be that along which the Canal of the Ptolemies was carried to connect the Red Sea with the Nile. The bed of the valley is perfectly flat, and, perhaps, twenty feet below the level of the sandy desert that presses upon it on

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THE RAS EL WADI.

both sides, contracting it to a width of about a mile.

It receives the annual fertilizing deposit brought down by the inundation of the Nile; and, what with embankments, reservoirs, and two small canals, that extend nearly its whole length, a sufficient quantity of water is retained to irrigate it throughout the year. Nevertheless, it is one of the few spots in Egypt where a want of agricultural labourers is clearly perceptible; for, with all this command of water, we found a great portion of the valley lying waste.

A vast quantity of mulberry-trees were planted here, some years since, by Mohammed Ali; and several colonies of Bedouins and Nubians were settled, and houses built, for propagating the silkworm ; but the speculation failed - principally from the insalubrity of the place, caused by the constant exposure of the inhabitants to the exhalations from the pools of stagnant water and decayed vegetable matter. The villages are, for the most part, deserted, and the mulberry-trees have a

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