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From West Africa to Palestine

Freetown: Manchester, 1873


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vermilion, in imitation of the lower surface. Hence, while the granite has been carried off, the top still remains smooth, and retains traces of its former colour. The casing of the great pyramid was probably the grey granite of Sinai, and being brought from so great distance, and by such rude means of conveyance as most likely were then employed, would be very valuable; which may account for the whole of it having been taken away for the erection of more recent costly buildings, principally mosques, at Cairo.

After recovering myself by about an hour's rest, I suffered the Arabs to persuade me to ascend the great pyramid (Cheops). Three assisted me; one taking hold of each hand, and one supporting me from behind. Before reaching one-third of the way, however, I gave out, changed my mind, and refused to ascend those dizzy heights. The Arabs clung to me, and insisted that I should go up. I could pacify them only by promising to allow them to take me to the interior—preferring then to examine the exterior a little more closely from a less elevated and commanding, but to me a more comfortable, position.

After gazing in amazement at the outside, I made up my mind, on consultation with Ibrahim as to the safety of the enterprise, to visit the central hall in the interior. Had I known, however, that the performance required so much nerve and physical strength as I found out during the experiment, I should not have ventured. The entrance is first by a very steep and narrow passage, paved with immense stones, which have become dangerously slippery by centuries of use. There are small notches for the toes of those who would achieve the enterprise of entering, distant from each other about four or five feet, showing that they were intended for very tall men who wore no shoes. The modern traveller is obliged to make Hiawathan strides to get the toe of his boot into one of these notches, which are also wearing smooth, so as to make the hold which he gets exceedingly precarious. But for the help of these half-naked, shoeless, and sure-footed Arabs, it would be impossible for Western pilgrims generally to accomplish the feat of visiting the interior. Before entering, the Arabs lighted two candles—an operation which, I confess, somewhat staggered me, as it gave me the idea of sepulchral gloom and ghastliness. I had supposed that the interior of the pyramids was lighted in some way, though I had not stopped to think how. As we had to go down sideways, two attended me, one holding my left hand and the other my right, so that if one slipped the other would be a support. If we had slipped at once, it is difficult to imagine what would have been the result. The lighted candles were carried in advance.