American Egyptomania Search


From West Africa to Palestine

Freetown: Manchester, 1873


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the wonders of Egypt. But I could not sleep. The fatigue of the railway ride, the intense heat, and the exhilarating visions of the scenes to be witnessed next day prevented me from closing my eyes. The alarm clock which Mr. Strang had set in my room for the purpose of waking me at half-past three (the time fixed for starting was four the next morning) was hardly necessary.

On the morning of the 11th of July, at half-past four o'clock, under the guidance of a young Copt, named Ibrahim, I set out for the pyramids. Owing to considerable delay in procuring a boat to cross the Nile—for the pyramids are on the other side of the river from Cairo—we did not reach our destination until eleven o'clock, under a broiling sun.

This journey will long be remembered by me, and will ever be the object of delightful reminiscences. I felt as if I were in an entirely new world. My thoughts were partly of the remote past, but mostly of the immediate future. When crossing the river, an island was pointed out to me as the spot where tradition says Moses was concealed by his mother. My interest was intense.

Half an hour after crossing the river, we caught a view of the pyramids in the distance. Here was opened to me a wide field of contemplation, and my imagination was complete "master of the situation". Though we were in an exposed plain, and my com- panion complained of the intense heat, I did not notice it, so eager was I to gain the pyramids, which seemed further and further to recede the longer we rode towards them. We saw them for three hours before we came up to them.

Just before reaching the pyramids we passed a small village of Arabs, who make their living, for the most part, by assisting travel- lers to "do" the pyramids. About a dozen of them rushed out as they saw us approaching, with goblets of water, pitchers of coffee, candles, and matches, and engraving knives. The water was very acceptable. I looked at the other articles, and wondered what could be the object of them.
The pyramids stand apparently on a hill of sand, on the borders of the Libyan desert. We had to ascend a considerable elevation— about 130 feet—before getting to the pyramid of Cheops. In the side of this apparent hill of sand, extending from the pyramids of Ghizeh to the smaller pyramids of Abusir and Sakarah, about two miles, are excavated tombs. The pyramids then are at the extremities of an immense city of the dead; they themselves forming the imperishable tombs of the mighty monarchs who constructed them.

On reaching the base of the great pyramid I tried to find the