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Wonders Of The World:
St. Mark's Church
Tower Of London
Cathedral Of Antwerp
The Taj Mahal
Cathedral Of Notre Dame
Kremlin
Cathedral Of York
Mosque Of Omar
Cathedral Of Burgos
The Pyramids
Saint Peter's Cathedral
Cathedral Of Strasburg
The Shway Dagohn
Cathedral Of Siena
Town Hall Of Louvain
Cathedral Of Seville
Windsor Castle
Cathedral of Cologne
Palce Of Versailles
Cathedral Of Lincoln

The Pyramids Of Egypt

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



Early in the morning our carriage, drawn by fast horses, rattles across the Nile on the iron bridge which joins Cairo to the beautiful island of Gezirah. The latter, with its castle and the western tributary of the river which ripples by it, are soon left behind. Beneath the shade of acacias and sycamore-trees runs the well-kept and level highway. On our left lie the castle and the high-walled, vice-regal gardens of Gizeh; the dewy green fields, intersected by canals, rejoice the eye, and a tender blue mist veils the west. The air has that clearness and aromatic freshness which is only offered by an Egyptian winter's morning. For a moment the enveloping curtain of cloud lifts from the horizon, and we see the prodigious Pyramids standing before us with their sharp triangles, and the misty curtain falls; to the right and left we sometimes see buffaloes grazing, sometimes flocks of silvery herons, sometimes a solitary pelican within gunshot of our carriage; then half-naked peasants at their daily labour and pleasing villages some distance from the road. Two large, whitish eagles now soar into the air. The eye follows their flight, and, in glancing upwards, perceives how the mist has gradually disappeared, how brightly dazzling is the blue of the sky, and how the sun is at last giving out the full splendour of his rays... We stand before the largest of these works of man, which, as we know, the ancients glorified as "wonders of the world." It is unnecessary to describe their form for everybody knows the stereometrical figure to which their name has been given, and this is not the place to print a numerical estimate of their mass. Only by a comparison with other structures present in our memory can any idea of their immensity be realized; and, consequently, it may be said here that while St. Peter's in Rome is 131 metres high (430 feet), the Great Pyramid (of Cheops), with its restored apex would be 147 metres (482 feet), and is thus 16 metres (52 feet) taller; therefore, if the Pyramid of Cheops were hollow, the great Cathedral of Rome could be placed within it like a clock under a protecting glass-shade. Neither St, Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, nor the Munster of Strasburg reaches the height of the highest Pyramid; but the new towers of the Cathedral of Cologne exceed it. In one respect no other building in the world can be compared with the Pyramids, and that is in regard to the mass and weight of the materials used in their construction. If the tomb of Cheops were razed, a wall could be built with its stones all around the frontiers of France. If you fire a good pistol from the top of the great Pyramid into the air, the ball falls halfway down its side. By such comparisons they who have not visited Egypt may form an idea of the dimensions of these amazing structures; he who stands on the sandy ground and raises his eyes to the summit, needs no such aids.

We get out of the carriage on the north side of the Pyramid of Cheops. In the sharply-defined triangular shadows women are squatted, offering oranges and various eatables for sale; donkey-boys are waiting with their grey animals; and travellers are resting after having accomplished the ascent. This work now lies before us, and if we were willing to shirk it, there would be many attacks on our indolence, for from the moment we stepped from our carriage, we have been closely followed by a ragged, brown, and sinewy crowd, vehemently offering their ser vices. They call themselves Bedouin with great pride, but they have nothing in common with the true sons of the desert except their faults. Nevertheless, it is not only prudent but necessary to accept their assistance, although the way up can scarcely be mistaken.

We begin the ascent at a place where the outside stone casing.of the Pyramid has fallen away, leaving the terracelike blocks of the interior exposed; but the steps are unequal and sometimes of considerable height; some of them are half as high as a man. Two or three lads accompany me; one jumps up first with his bare feet, holds my hands, and drags me after him; another follows the climber, props his back, and thrusts and pushes him forwards; while a third grabs his side beneath his arm, and lifts him. Thus, one half-scrambles up himself and is half-dragged up, while the nimble lads give the climber no rest, if he wants to stop for breath or to wipe the drops of moisture from his brow. These importunate beggars never cease shouting and clamouring for baksheesh, and are so persistently annoying that they seem to want us to forget the gratitude we owe them for their aid.

At length we reach our destination. The point of the Pyramid has long since crumbled away, and we stand on a tolerably spacious platform. When out gasping breath and throbbing pulses have partially recovered and we have paid and got rid of the Bedouin, who torment us to exchange our money for sham antiquities, we look down upon the vast landscape, and the longer we gaze and absorb this distant view, the more significant and the more incomparable it appears. Fertility and sterility, life and death, lie no where in such close mingling as here. There in the east flows the broad Nile covered with lateen sails, and like emerald tapestry are the fields and meadows, gardens and groves of palm-trees, spread along its shores. The villages, hidden under the trees, look like birds' nests among green boughs, and at the foot of the Mokattam mountain, which is now shining with golden light and which at sunset will reflect the rosy and violet afterglow, rise the thousand mosques of the city of the Caliphs, overtopped by the citadel and by those slenderest of all minarets which grace the Mausoleum of Mohammed Ali, an unmistakable featture of Cairo, visible from the farthest distance. Gardens and trees encircle the city like a garland around some lovely head. Nowhere is there to be found a more beautiful picture of prosperity, fertility, and life. The silver threads of the canals crossing the entire luxuriant valley appear to be some shining fluid. Unclouded is the sky, and yet light shadows fall across the fields. These are flocks of birds which find plenty of food and drink here. How vast is the bounty of God! How beautiful and rich is the earth!

The Bedouin have left us. We stand alone on the summit. All is still. Not a sound reaches us from far or near. Turning now to the west, the eye can see nothing but pyramids and tombs, rocks and sand in countless num ber. Not a blade, not a bush can find nutriment in this sterile ground. Yellow, grey, and dull brown cover everything, far and wide, in unbroken monotony.

Only here and there a white object is shining amidst the dust. It is the dried skeleton of some dead animal. Silent and void, the enemy to everything that has life -the desert - stretches before us. Where is its end? In days, weeks, months the traveller would never reach it, even if he escaped alive from the choking sand. Here, if anywhere, Death is king; here, where the Egyptians saw the sun vanish every day behind the wall of the Libyan mountains, begins a world which bears the same comparison to the fruitful lands of the East as a corpse does to a living man happy in the battle and joy of life. A more silent burial-place than this desert exists nowhere on this earth; and so tomb after tomb was erected here, and, as if to preserve the secret of the dead, the desert has enveloped tombs and bodies with its veil of sand. Here the terrors of infinity are displayed. Here at the gate of the future life, where eternity begins, man's work seems to have eluded the common destiny of earthly things and to have partaken of immortality.

"Time mocks all things, but the Pyramids mock Time" is an Arabian proverb which has been repeated thousands of times.



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