« AnteriorContinuar »
... 2 . . . . . . THE LAND OF KHEMI.
and equally ancient appellation of Ta-She, or
seded, would have presented an insuperable obstacle to my trip—and endeavoured to extract from the motley throng of native passengers who crowded the second and third class carriages, that oriental flavour which the appliances of modern civilisation are tending so rapidly to destroy. At the station of Wasta, fifty miles from Cairo, the road branches off to the Fayoum. Here we are delayed a couple of hours to wait for the down-train; and seated in a date-grove, evidently consecrated to a/ fresco meals, to judge by the great quantity of shells of hardboiled eggs which are strewn around, we prepare our afternoon tea by the aid of a spiritlamp, to the intense interest of the spectators, and sketch the curiously shaped Pyramid of Meidim, rising in stages behind the village of that name, some four miles distant, interesting as having furnished, from the adjoining Mastabas, the oldest sculptures in the world, and the earliest existing examples of the art of writing. Monsieur Daninos, the French Egyptologist, who unearthed these statues about ten years ago, gave me an interesting account of their discovery. It seems that the sheikh of the
village of Meidūm took the unprecedented step of sending a message direct to Ismail Pasha, the late Khedive, to tell him that he had discovered caverns full of treasure in his neighbourhood. The Khedive referred the intelligence to the late Mariette Pasha, who did not attach much credit to it, but despatched Daninos Bey, who was then assisting him in his antiquarian researches, to verify it. On arriving at the spot, Daninos Bey found the sheikh in considerable trepidation from the threats of one of the local officials, who resented his having reported to the Khedive direct instead of through the regular channels. However, he was comforted by a decoration, and the promise of protection, and was requested to lead the way to the cavern. This turned out to be an unimportant little hole; but Daninos Bey saw other indications in the neighbourhood, which induced him to believe that excavation might be attended with success— the more especially as he had got his excavating party on the spot, and was unwilling to return re infecta. He therefore set his men to work to uncover one of the mounds, and they shortly disclosed a slab which appeared to form part of the roof of an opening leading into a tomb. Soon the leading Arab, who had crawled into the aperture, reappeared in the utmost alarm, saying that there were living people inside. Monsieur Daninos at once climbed up the mound, and, squeezing through the opening, was startled by the life-like appearance of two seated figures with sparkling eyes and flesh-like tints. They were a young and handsome couple — the male painted a reddish brown, the female a light yellow. In their eyes were crystals, which imparted to them a peculiarly living aspect. Their features, which were calm and dignified, were as perfect as the day they were chiselled. They had been seated in this chamber, hermetically sealed from the outward air, for 5600 years, when the garish light of nineteenth-century civilisation was let in upon them. They represent the Prince Raho-tep, son of King Seneferoo of the third dynasty, and his wife Nefert, who both died young; and they are now preserved under glass in the museum at Boulak, where they are among its most valued treasures. The branch train to Fayoum is a very rattletrap affair, but, fortunately, travels at so slow a rate, that the danger of its falling to pieces is comparatively remote. The traces of paint, which once adorned the carriages, are rapidly vanishing, and they look as brown and barbarous as the desert they traverse. As first-class passengers are rare, there is only one compartment for them, and this is seldom used, and becomes a permanent repository of dust. However, we were glad to take possession of it, “bag and baggage,” and crawled out of the station in a westerly direction, leaving the pyramid, and the village which occupies the site of the ancient city—“Beloved of Tum”— to the right. The high mound on which the modern village of Meidam is situated must contain the déðris of one of the oldest cities in Egypt, and would probably well repay excavation, as its name occurs on the monuments of the third dynasty, B.C. 3900. It takes scarcely a quarter of an hour to traverse the cultivated strip that intervenes between the hill and the desert—just before reaching which, on the left, we pass a village of pigeon-towers, that presents a curious appearance, as the population of the village is comparatively small, while that of the pigeons