Title: Three Years in The Libyan Desert [Electronic Edition]

Author: Falls, J. C. Ewald, b. 1885
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Title: Three Years in The Libyan Desert

Author: J. C. Ewald Falls
Statement of responsibility:
Translator: Elizabeth Lee
First Edition
File size or extent: xii, 356 p. front., plates. 23 cm.
Publisher: T. Fisher Unwin
Place of publication: London
Publication date: 1913
Identifier: From the University of South Florida Library, DT55 .F32 1913
Description of the project: This electronic text is part of the Travelers in the Middle East Archive (TIMEA), developed by Rice University.
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Origin/composition of the text: 1913
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  • Arabic (ara)
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Keywords: (Library of Congress Subject Headings)( Library of Congress Subject Headings )
  • Libyan Desert -- Description and travel
  • Bedouins
  • Frankfurter Expedition am Karm Abu Mina
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Three Years in The Libyan Desert [Electronic Edition]









English Translation first published, 1913
(All rights reserved.)




Kaufmann proposes to explore Cyrenaïca, in North Africa—
Initial difficulties—The Tripoli question—Politics upset a scientific
project—Our reserve project: the lost sanctuary of the
desert—The Menas expedition.


From Athens to Alexandria—Captain Nicholas changes the prescribed
course—Old and new from the city of the Ptolemies—
The tomb of Alexander the Great—Schiess Pasha, a pioneer of
German research in Egypt—Preparations for the journey into
the Libyan Desert and the Menas expedition—Reception by the
Governor—Our equipment.


Departure of the caravan—Encampment at Haschm-el-Aisch—
Visitors to the camp: Amadeus Haydn, the negro Emperor's
grandson—I take my cousin for a hostile Beduin—Over the
desert tableland to Wadi Moghara—A forced ride by night:
twenty-two hours in the saddle—The petrified forest and the pass
of “Bab-Frankenfurt”—Sandstorm at Wadi Moghara—Bathing
and hunting at the Salt Lake—The negro grievance deputation
—To Kasr el-Gettajeh—Flight of the Beduin, Abu Sêf.



The salt valley and the prehistoric Libyan Nile—We find bones
of old African fauna—Heathen and Christian sanctuaries of
Wadi Natrûn—Four strongholds in the sea of sand—Remains of
the “hundred monasteries”—A journey through the Natrûn
Valley—Sheikh Muftah loses the way—The first tents of the
Schuâbi—Arrival at Bir Hooker—Visit to Dêr Baramûs—The
monks take us for enemies—Cordial reception in the monkish
citadel—At the shrine of the “princes”—Wanderings through
churches and dungeons—Amba John of Abyssinia—The
monastery of the Syrians—Mangled library treasures—Dêr
Amba Bischâi—The salines—Ride to Dêr Makâr—The tomb
of the patriarch of the monks and the grotto of the forty-nine


Departure from Wadi Natrûn—Muftah's “weakness”—Through
the land of the Children of Ali—Kom Marghab—Fata Morgana
—The Pasha deluded by the mirage—Story of the enigmatical
Sidi Melûnte—Arrival at the ruins of Karm Abu Mina
Dangerous illness of the leader of the expedition—Eureka:
the holy city is found!—The Vineyard of Father Menas—
History of Menas—Departure and return of the caravan—
Strange farewell banquet in the casino at Mex.


In front of Mamür Markaz's house—Engaging a Sheikh—To
Karm Abu Mina for the second time—A rebellion among the
Auladali—The strangers are treasure-seekers—They intend to
build a Christian city—My housebuilding—Beduins as workmen
—A walk through the ruins of the Marble City—Our assistants
—Diplomatic intervention—The “German officers” signal to
German battleships.



The only real Arabs of Egypt—The Auladali and their branches
—A German Christian boy the ancestor of the Senagra—Coast
region, Gebel, oasis region—Caravan routes—The Dherb el-Hagg
—Oasis routes—The land in ancient times—At the Gulf of
Sollum—The Khedive's new railway—The Lake of Mariut—
A ride along the dam at Orkan—From Bab el-Arab to Bahig,
the station for the ruins of the city of Menas—To the future
terminus of the railway at Mirsa Matru—The former capital of


Christmas Eve improvisation—Divine worship in the tomb of
Menas—Hail to the Kaiser!—Political unrest of the Beduins—
The two Effendi are to be spared in the general massacre of the
Christians—The Jôm dschûma—Fear of the European doctor
—Resurrection of the negro Chêr—I win my horse Ibrahîm
—The water caravan—A night attack—Siwi, the chief of the
three faithful comrades—Visit of Europeans—Beduin pantomime:
jealousy—The iron donkey (Homâr hadîd).


Abbas Hilmi II of Egypt—The royal caravan—Why the Viceroy
travels—The “crowned fellah” a title of honour—Table-talk in
the desert—The Sultan's road, the Alexander route—Reception
in the oasis of Siwa—The palm-grove men and their life—The
Egyptian Governor—The prison as dark-room—Murder of the
Mamûr of Siwa, 1910—Flora and fauna—Mud towns and
troglodytes—The Oracle Temple and other classic ruins—
Araschieh, the enchanted lake with Solomon's crown—From
the Fountain of the Sun—Kasr el-Guraîschet—My ride to
Zetûn—Return home—How Umm Sâd saved my cousin's life.



Natural piety and superstition—The world of spirits—How I
caught an Afrîte—The ghost of the temple of Menas—“Saints”
of the Auladali—Dervish experiments—Primitive serpents and
scorpions—Mecca pilgrims—Mecca caravans in the interior of
Africa—The Senussi and Pan-Islamism—Sidi el-Mahdi, the mysterious
lord of the desert—Wedding at Karm Abu Mina
Birth and death in the desert—Hospitality and vendetta—The
Mâd—A nose for a nose—Haschisch smuggling—Slavery.


The “ostraka” of the city of Menas—The lessons of the
excavations at Karm Abu Mina—The outlook for Mariut—A
far-reaching attempt of the Viceroy—Agriculture and Beduin
trade—Success on the borders of the Delta—How the Nile mud
changes the desert into a paradise—Fellah villages—The
rôle of the Beduins in the borderland—The awakening of the
Egyptian peasants.



A BEDUIN SHEIKH Frontispiece
Facing page


Facing page


Facing page


Facing page


Three Years in the Libyan

Kaufmann proposes to explore Cyrenaïca, in North Africa—
Initial difficulties—The Tripoli question—Politics upset
a scientific project—Our reserve project: the lost sanctuary
of the desert—The Menas expedition.

THE object of the expedition in which my cousin,
Monsignor Kaufmann, of Frankfort, invited me to
take part was the early Christian ruins of Cyrenaïca,
in the Turkish Wilayet Barca. The mysterious
land into the interior of which we desired to penetrate
is situated in the eastern portion of North
Africa, between the Mediterranean, the Sahara, and
Egypt, and has been less explored than the darkest
districts of Central Africa and the Great Desert.
The preparations for the expedition had lasted
for almost a year. In 1904 two documents had
been printed “concerning archaeological and

scientific research in Cyrenaïca,” and widely circulated
among experts in order to obtain advice
and assistance. It was stated that the chief aim
of the expedition was “a journey to the
Cyrenaïcan Pentapolis, partly in the footsteps of
well-known men like Rohlfs, Camperio, Haimann
and their companions,” and also “to explore the
wadis running from the plateau to the south, and
for the first time to investigate a district in which
there is every reason to suppose that there are not
only some of the bishoprics mentioned by Synesius,
but also, on the boundary of the fertile zone, large
early Christian monasteries referred to by Procopius.”
Further, the special task of the expedition
was to be a double one: “to make a scientific
investigation of early Christian monuments, tombs,
and sanctuaries, that had been only occasionally
and superficially treated by earlier investigators,
like Pacho and Smith-Porcher, and also to study
archaeological monuments of a secular character
hitherto neglected,” and secondly, to obtain geographical
and topographical material through
itineraries and the like.
The plan was approved by Professor Georg
Schweinfurth, the Nestor of German African
explorers, by Professor Viktor Schultze, the
distinguished Professor of Christian Archaeology
in the University of Greifswald, Professor Furtwängler

Early Christian pyx in the British Museum.

An early Christian pyx in the British Museum.

An early Christian pyx in the British Museum.

of Munich, Professor Strzygovski of
Vienna, Professor Harnack of Berlin, Professor
Kirsch of Freiburg, Monsignor de Val of Rome,
and the archaeologist Kekule von Stradonitz, whose
pupil Kaufmann was.
When we applied to the Foreign Office for a
Turkish firman, we learnt that there would be
difficulties about such an expedition, and also
Professor Wilhelm Dörpfeld, the Director of the
Imperial Archaeological Institute in Athens, told
us that in 1902 a Danish expedition had fallen
through because permission could not be obtained
for investigation and excavation in Cyrene.
Others, again, who sympathized with our project
were Professor Supan of Gotha and the geographer
Richard Kiepert of Berlin.
Two routes had to be considered for a journey in
Cyrenaïca — the Egyptian, from Alexandria through
Mariut and Marmarika, and the Turkish, from
Tripoli through Bengasi. We chose the latter as
the most promising, especially if we were unable
to obtain the Sultan's firman and were compelled
to travel disguised in Arab dress, when from the
very beginning not only our lives but also the
scientific success of our expedition would be
at stake.
While we were making our final preparations, and
when our instruments had been tested and our cases

and trunks packed, events occurred which might
easily have prevented the carrying out of the
expedition: the death of Kaufmann's mother, and
unfavourable news from Constantinople and
Bengasi. Information came from the Bosphorus
that under no circumstances whatever would a
firman be granted for research in Cyrenaïca. It
was also reported that even if the Sultan's permission
were obtained, the Pasha, that is, the Wali
of Bengasi, would strongly oppose any entry into
the “Green Mountains,” Dschebel Achdar — so the
natives call the highlands of Cyrenaïca — since he
would be held responsible for the life and safety
of the travellers and was unable to furnish
protection for them.
We had reckoned with the possibility that the
diplomatic conditions which then prevailed in North
Africa, where every explorer was suspected as a
political emissary, would lead the authorities there
to refuse their help, and on the other hand we
knew that no speedy decision was to be expected
from the Porte. Now came unfavourable news
from Bengasi — the declaration of the Wali or Pasha,
and a direct hint on the Egyptian side from the
Imperial Ambassador, Freiherr von Rücker-Jenisch,
that the inhabitants on the borders of
Tripoli, who were especially fanatical, through the
influence of the Mohammedan religious societies,

would render the life of a European traveller
extremely insecure.
There remained then only one other possibility for
us — to land in Bengasi as ordinary travellers, to
remain there for a few weeks, to organize a modest
caravan, and in native dress and at our own risk to
invade the highlands of Barca. The slight knowledge
of Arabic that we possessed at that time
was a serious drawback. But the leader of the
expedition reckoned on the assistance of the
Franciscan mission stations, since a letter from
the General of the Franciscan Order required all
the Tripoli settlements to give the two explorers not
only a kind reception and to show them hospitality,
but also to further their plans in every way. This
calculation, which appeared so plausible, was, as we
experienced later, the most unfavourable possible,
since in the course of centuries the missionaries in
those districts — except in the ports, where the
Maltese, Italians, and others had established their
chief centres of work — had accomplished nothing.
The hinterland was closed to them. If some
man, bolder than the rest, ventured from the
coast into the region of the Green Mountains,
his enterprise was soon met by obstacles, and there
was cause for rejoicing if, as happened a few
years ago, one of them did not take the form of


We were already in Tunis, where the Consul-General,
Herr von Bary, received us in the kindliest
manner, and our luggage was on the way to Tripoli,
when difficulties arose both at home and abroad
which definitely put an end to the Cyrenaïcan
expedition, while, like a bolt from the blue, the whole
political question of Italian interests in Tripoli was
laid open. In 1905 it had become acute in regard
to the harbour of the town of Tripoli. The diplomatists
of the Mediterranean countries were more
occupied with the old problem of the division of
Turkish North Africa, especially Cyrenaïca, which
fell within Italy's sphere of interest, than with the
particular cause of the war, namely, to whom the
newly built Turkish harbour of Berber Tripoli was
to belong. The result was that, through the dispute
thus enkindled, from April, 1905, all plans were
ruined — those of the French firms to whom the
harbour had long been handed over as well as
those of the Italians, who claimed all rights for
Unfortunately, with the Italian “Difesa della
Tripolitania” our Cyrenaïca expedition was definitely
wrecked. The Turkish North African ports of
Derna, Bengasi and Tripoli swarmed with spies,
who, according to the situation of affairs, saw a
representative of the spies of the enemy in every
emissary of science, and kept all passengers on outgoing


ships from Tunis or Malta under observation.
Consular and private advices confirmed all
that we had already heard in Kairuan and Sfax,
and so the wonderland that, according to Pliny,
produced the basilisk, and in which the most
mysterious medical plants of the ancient world grew,
and sporadically still grow — I mean silphium, the
dewdrops in which the ancients called the “tears of
Cyrenaïca” — was closed to us.
Fortunately Monsignor Kaufmann had a reserve
project. We proposed in case of ill success to cross
over from Cyrenaïca into Egyptian territory, and
to search for the lost sanctuary of Menas in the
eastern part of the great Libyan Desert. Since,
then, entrance into Dschebel Achdar and its hinterland
was closed to us, we had all the baggage
sent from Tripoli to Alexandria, paid a brief visit
to Germany, and then travelled through Greece to
We thus set ourselves to solve the second problem
of the expedition: to rediscover the highly important,
long and vainly sought early Christian
sanctuary in the Libyan Desert, the tomb of St.
Menas. There we were on Egyptian ground;
under the aegis of an administration regulated on
modern principles, as is the case of Egypt since the
English occupation, the difficulties could not be
invincible. And this time we had rare luck, for the

discovery of the early Christian city of the desert
and of the national sanctuary of the Christian
Egyptians, which has rightly been described as a
marvellous and fairylike event, surpassed our boldest

[Back to top]



From Athens to Alexandria — Captain Nicholas changes the prescribed
course — Old and new from the city of the Ptolemies
— The tomb of Alexander the Great — Schiess Pasha, a
pioneer of German research in Egypt — Preparations for the
journey into the Libyan Desert and the Menas expedition
— Reception by the Governor — Our equipment.

WE landed in Patras, and proceeded to Athens via
Nea-Korinth, and the canal which traverses the most
romantic scenery of Greece. We had only four days
to spend in Athens in which to see the splendid
temples, to admire the magnificent old churches, to
visit the museums and the university. On St.
George's Day there was a popular fête at the
Lykabettos, and our last visit before our departure
for Alexandria was to the tomb of Heinrich
Schliemann, the excavator of Troy, Mycenae, and
We embarked at the Piraeus for Alexandria, and
entrusted ourselves to a fairly ancient vessel which

bore the proud name of Athene. Although the
good ship encountered neither storm nor accidents
to its machinery, nor fire nor mutiny, she eloped
with her passengers to the shores of Asia Minor
instead of taking the regular prescribed direct route
to Alexandria via Crete. The passengers had
understood before embarking that such was the
route to be followed, and it was to the interest of
most of them that it should be adhered to. However,
after a series of adventures we at last found
ourselves being slowly piloted through the forest
of masts of the Eunostos — the “harbour of safe
return,” which since 1871 has expanded into a large
outer harbour — into the inner harbour, where we
were to anchor near the warehouses and the arsenal.
The vessel was lightly tossing up and down when
the customary comedy of a landing in the East was
played. A flotilla of small boats occupied by the
most fantastic figures swarmed all round the Athene,
ready to clamber up her wet sides and fall upon
us. The impatience of the black, brown, and red
adventurers was greater than ours. At last, after
half an hour's wait, the yellow quarantine flag,
which had been flown during the visit of the harbour
authorities and the doctor, was slowly lowered, and
the wild cats climbed up to possess themselves of
the passengers' baggage.
A supple thick-set man, with sinister sparkling

eyes, a scanty bristly beard, clad in white up to his
carelessly folded red turban, had evidently fixed on
us. A painter would have been glad to paint the
fellow, who suddenly stood there like Ahasueras
and never moved an inch, but who would trust
themselves to him? While agents, moneychangers,
hotel kawasses sang the praises of their
houses, he told them in a decisive manner and in
ponderous French, but, of course, without any
commission so to do: “These gentlemen have
engaged rooms in the Hotel St. George.” Then
he looked at us as if any disavowal on our
part would be met with a blow. Monsignor
Kaufmann laughed quietly, and said to me: “He'd
do murder for a pound!” And so the incredible
took place: we followed the man, who boldly swung
himself on to the box of our carriage, to that Greek
hotel, to the Xenodocheion of Hagio Georgios,
situated in sight of the monumental “mixed court
of justice,” which settled disputes between foreigners
and natives and in which some of the best German
intellects are employed.
This strange person, who was named Mohammed,
became in the course of time a faithful factotum,
and in conjunction with the then proprietor of
the Greek hotel, which we made our habitual
quarters, indispensable to us. This Mohammed,
so dreaded at first, became faithfulness and submission

personified. Although we only employed
him when we needed to make purchases in
Alexandria, to procure tools for the excavations,
provisions, etc., we were his “masters.” At the
times when he expected us, he would hang about
the railway station all day long. He walked in
front through the winding streets of Souks, the
Oriental bazaar of the town, and shouting loudly
made a way for us with his powerful fists. The
motley, good-tempered natives only looked surprised
when, to our great embarrassment, he stopped
carts or rebuked a tradesman who ventured to
demand from his “masters” the prices usually
asked of tourists. Mohammed even appeared on
board the Austrian steamer which, after three years
of hard work, was to take us home again. At this
last appearance in our service his wild eyes were
sad, and when he had stowed away our luggage in
the cabin, to the terror of the personnel he threw
himself on the ground and plucked his beard — a
farewell with tears!
The Athene arrived on May 11th, but our
trunks and cases with the instruments and a part
of the equipment of the expedition were still on
the way from Tripoli to Alexandria. So besides
the preliminary visits there was sufficient time
for a cursory survey of Iskanderije, the city of


Its nearness to Cairo, the enchanted city of the
Caliphs, which can be reached in a three hours'
railway journey, has caused the successor to the
ancient city of the Ptolemies to be merely a city of
passage. The city has, of course, more interest for
commercial men, for nearly three thousand steamers
pass annually in and out of its harbour, and its
exportation of cotton and fruit is always increasing.
In summer, when the Khedive removes his court to
Ras-el- Tin — opposite the ancient Pharos peninsula
where once the wonder of the antique world, the
celebrated lighthouse, far higher than the spire of
Cologne Cathedral, rose into the air — and the
ministerial and official world of Cairo goes into
villeggiatura on the Eleusinian shore in the garden
suburb of Ramleh surrounded by the sea, the life
of the beautiful city becomes more animated. But
the tourists and foreigners have then long departed
from the land of the Nile, and certainly to their
disadvantage. For after the Egyptian season,
which lasts from November to April, the ancient
land puts forth all its splendour; and even autumn,
when snowfields of cotton shine immeasurable
beside the palms, has its own peculiar charm, one
too little valued.
In population and extent Alexandria is gradually
approaching its ancient golden age, when in the
time of Augustus it had a population of half a

million. Indeed, as the days of the ancient Pharos,
the ruins of which, saved from earthquakes and
sea-storms, rose up masterfully in the Middle Ages,
are gone, so is the splendour of the temples and
of the classic architecture of the public buildings.
Every trace of the famous Gymnasium is lost,
and the actual site of the Museum and the
Ptolemaic Library, at the burning of which almost
a million manuscripts containing the written wisdom
of the ancient world were lost, is not known. In
the modern city of the natives and of the fifty
thousand “Franks,” chiefly Greeks and Italians,
houses and villas have been erected over other
buildings. And the street traffic surges over the
sites of the Caesareum and of that remarkable
theatre of which the sea formed the side scenes,
with a little crescent-shaped island in the background.
On the site of the ruins of the Serapeum,
the sanctuary erected by the Ptolemies to Serapis,
ruler of the underworld, a single pillar of red
granite rises to the sky, the last remnant, which the
Emperor Theodosius had set up again as a victory
column of Christendom in memory of the destruction
of the building. That “Pillar of Pompey,”
about 90 feet high, with its monumental pedestal
and its large Corinthian capital, is the modern lion
of the town. Schiess Pasha erected a smaller,
similar column with two figures of Sechmet, the

lion-headed war goddess, near the Government
Hospital in memory of the victory of Omdurman
and the conquest of Khartoum (1898). Like the
Victoria Column, also erected by Schiess Pasha, it
had its origin in the neighbouring royal palace of
the Ptolemies, lying amid quiet gardens. Ismail
Pasha, with great generosity, gave two fine obelisks
of pink granite (improperly called Cleopatra's
Needles) from the Temple of the Sun at Heliopolis,
obelisks which the Emperor Theodosius
brought to Alexandria, to foreign lands — one to
London, the other to New York.
We were soon familiar with those parts of the
town unfrequented by foreigners and less striking
to the eye, and in the course of frequent visits the
subterranean cisterns and catacombs claimed our
special attention. The greatest attraction of that
kind, Alexander's tomb, is unfortunately, on religious
grounds, still inaccessible. Like all the royal
necropolises of the Ptolemies, it is situated under
the Nebi Daniel mosque, and tradition speaks of
a wide subterranean passage that leads under the
chief axis of the building to the royal tomb, which
is recognizable externally on an eminence (Kom ed
Dîck). Since Schliemann's time, to whom Schiess
Pasha was helpful, the possibility of excavation in
that spot has been considered. A former guardian
of the mosque and others had seen the gold mummy

of Alexander in the catacomb. The rumour quickly
spread, and when it came to the ears of Tewfik
Pasha, the father of the present Khedive, the
entrance to the royal tomb was closed up, and later
effaced. The existence of a large subterranean
annex in the neighbourhood of the mosque of the
Prophet Daniel is absolutely certain, and was confirmed
to me in a thoroughly determinative and
trustworthy way. But the Ulemas will never
permit Europeans to make investigations, and it
will be necessary to employ force.
The most fantastic of all the stories hitherto put
forward is that of a Greek whom Professor Thiersch
of Freiburg mentions in an essay on the tomb of
Alexander that appeared after this chapter was
written. A Greek named Schillizzi, who was
searching for antiquities, penetrated into the
remains of the Nebi Daniel mosque. He descended
into the depths of a catacomb corridor,
and through a secret passage reached a worm-eaten
wooden door. Through a crack he saw a glass
case, and in it a dead man, whose head was crowned
with a diadem of precious stones, and around whom
lay manuscripts and papyrus scrolls.
It is very striking that Alexander, who was
originally to have been removed to the oasis of
Jupiter-Amon, but remained in the royal tomb of
Memphis, and came thence to “his” town, according

Ivory panel from the throne of Mark, the evangelist.


to classical tradition, reposed in a glass coffin.
Augustus himself was among the Roman Emperors
who visited his tomb and placed a golden diadem
on the mummy, and it was Septimius Severus who
put sacred books from Egyptian temples into the
Among heathen cemeteries we may mention the
Greek rock necropolis near the bay of Anfûchi, on
the estate of Prince Tussûn, and the magnificent
Greek catacombs of Kom esch Schugâfa, the
chambers of which, with their picturesque mixture
of Egyptian and Graeco-Roman decoration, we were
fortunate enough to study under the guidance of
their real discoverer, Schiess Pasha. What had
been found there, in addition to gifts, formed the
basis, or at least the most important part, of the
antiquities in the Graeco-Roman museum of Alexandria.
But unfortunately they are a very poor
representation of what might be expected in the
city of the Ptolemies. If, however, the sins of
omission of a town like Alexandria are to be partly
made good, it is owing to the energy of men like
Schiess Pasha and G. Botti. The latter was the
first director of the new museum. Under his successor
and compatriot, E. Breccia, equally valued as
official and author, the collection has greatly improved,
especially through occasional finds on sites
of buildings and streets, such as the discovery of a

Greek cemetery in the neighbouring district of
The chief interest of the leader of our expedition
lay naturally in the few early Christian remains of
Alexandria. What we undertook in following up
tracks in the precincts of both the ancient and
modern city borders on the incredible. No bog
was too deep, no field of stones in the desert too
near the lair of the Beduin dogs, no wall could
stand against our curiosity, and amusing episodes
were not lacking. Unfortunately, our visits to the
catacombs of Alexandria had no special result,
although I myself brought home rich botanical
booty and some geological specimens. During the
excavations in Menas information was given us by
a Beduin which threw light on the supposed situation
of the lost cemeteries of early Christian
Alexandria, a problem about the solution of which
my cousin was specially eager. One day a Greek
offered to sell us an early Christian bronze lamp,
the inside of which was filled with earth. We were
successful in finding the Beduin from whom he
procured it, and he declared he had obtained the
object from a relative who had formerly been
“Ghaffir” at Sidi Gaber, a garden suburb of
Alexandria. We were able, fortunately, to discover
almost the exact spot where the guard's tent stood,
but not the entrance to the Christian houses in

the Sebel—a range of hills at El-Hadra—not even
with the help of Beduins of the tribe in question.
Excavations in that neighbourhood would certainly
bring surprises, since the first early Christian cemetery
found in Alexandria came to light in that
chain of hills during the construction of the Cairo
railway and was destroyed.
It was not, however, the old town that exclusively
interested us. The modern town, that since
Mohammed Ali had flourished anew, offered in the
native quarter points of attraction not less strong.
Even the European quarter, which has revived
since the rebellion of Arabi Pasha and the occupation
of the land by the English (1882), offered
points of interest. It is focused round the large
fine square with its equestrian statue of Mohammed
Ali, where the most beautiful palaces are situated.
But Alexandria derives its best adornment from the
new harbour and fine quays, a work that owes much
to the initiative of Schiess Pasha and is partly
completed. It is built on a flat tongue of sand of
the delta of the Nile, and in a few years will rank
among the really fine harbours of the Mediterranean.
I have again mentioned the name of a man
whose assistance greatly contributed to the
success of the Menas expedition. Having once
reached the country, everything lay in using the
letters of introduction we had brought with us.

A fortunate fate led us to Dr. Johannes Schiess
Bey, who effectually helped us where others
would have deemed promises and dinner invitations
all that was required. In Dr. Schiess,
who later became Pasha, we found a pioneer of
German research in Egypt.
“Tell his Royal Highness that Dr. Schiess
makes no sort of distinction; he treats all
alike!” Nothing better describes the man who
was borne to the grave on February 25, 1910,
amid the sympathy of the whole of Alexandria,
than this reply given to the chief eunuch of the
Khedive, who had been commissioned by his
master to recommend a patient for special care.
At that time Dr. Schiess was chief physician of
the Government Arab hospital in Alexandria,
an institution which he transformed into a model
for modern Egyptian sanitation. We first met
him in that place after he had held his post for
nearly twenty-five years. His strong, rather
thick-set figure, his decided, simple manner, did not
conceal under the red tarbusch, the sign of the
Egyptian official, the honest Swiss. Something
of the freshness of youth lay on the slightly
ruddy countenance and seemed to give the lie to
the short white moustache, under which appeared,
as always with the inveterate smoker, the cigar.
My cousin's purpose was to interest Schiess,

who then bore the title of Bey, in his quality as
President of the Alexandrian Antiquities Commission,
in the Menas expedition, and if possible
to gain the moral support of the distinguished man.
The success was beyond all expectation. When
Schiess had looked at our introductions and
learned our plans, which included researches in
the whole of the north-east corner of the Libyan
Desert, where the mysterious lost sanctuary must
be hidden, he rang for a servant and ordered the
carriage to be brought round. He turned to me
and said cordially: “Herr Falls, I admire your
courage, and envy you your youth; I am sorry
that I cannot myself join this interesting expedition
into the desert.” And then came the
important words: “I will do all that lies in my
power to help you, but do not be too hopeful.”
He then invited us to drive with him to the
museum and to call on the Governor.
Later we had the good fortune to know the
man more intimately, and to see him at work
in the laboratory, by the sick-bed, and under the
palm-trees of his shady villeggiatura at Ramleh-Bucos.
He had many reminiscences to give of
the men who had worked in his laboratory—
men distinguished for their investigations into
plague and cholera, anthropologists, African explorers
to whom he had shown hospitality; men

like Virchow, Robert Koch, Schweinfurth, and
Fritsch. His most important creative work was
patent to the eyes when we walked through
the barracks, tents, and wards of the Government
Arab hospital, towering above the seashore
on the ruins of the royal citadel of the Ptolemies,
where Schiess first introduced Berlin disinfecting
apparatus, modern instruments, in short, European
scientific methods and hygiene, reforms of the
utmost importance for the welfare of the whole of
the Nile country.
Schiess Pasha was born in 1837 at Herisau,
in the canton of Appenzell. It was intended
that he should be a Protestant theologian, but
he studied medicine at Basle, Berne, Paris, and
Berlin. In Paris he often went hungry. A
desire to see the world and a feeling for romance
led the thirty-year-old doctor to the revolution
in Crete. He travelled through the disturbed
island on a commission from a Swiss-Italian committee
to take help to the sick and wounded
insurgents. There, so to say, in the saddle, he
made the acquaintance of Elpis Melenas, the
authoress, Baroness Marie Espérance von Schwartz,
who was closely connected with the later history
of the island. A year after, Schiess appeared in
the brilliant suite of Ismail at the opening of
the Suez Canal. The Khedive had invited him

to be present, and by his wish Schiess now
remained in Egypt, the land which was to be so
deeply indebted to him.
Division-surgeon in the military and civil hospital,
Imperial Russian delegate to the Sanitary
Council, physician-in-chief and director of the
Arab hospital of Alexandria, such are the outward
steps in the course of the life of the distinguished
physician to whom Alexandria in 1897
paid the highest honour in summoning him to the
head of her international composite municipality.
One day we met Dr. Schiess at his favourite
spot in the hospital park, where now a granite
tomb covers his bones, in an opening surrounded
by trees, in the centre of which the ancient sarcophagus
rests on a pedestal with four steps,
flanked by rare early Christian pillars. His old
friend, the President of the Council, had informed
him that the Khedive purposed bestowing on
him the dignity of a pasha. The democrat in
him strove against it. “I am and shall remain
Dr. Schiess,” he replied, and his friends had great
difficulty in persuading him to accept the honour.
Exploration and antiquarian research greatly
gained by the change.
Our reception by Mahmud Pasha Sidky, the
Governor of Alexandria, who meanwhile has been
transferred to a similar post at Cairo, was most

satisfactory. He occupied the old Government
Buildings near the harbour, surrounded by a
small army of officials, servants, and soldiers. Our
business was inaugurated by the inevitable
“Gawa” in pretty Arab coffee-cups. My cousin
explained our plans in his best French, and the
Pasha, who had already heard of them through
Schiess Bey, immediately introduced us to Hopkinson
Bey, now likewise Pasha, who was head
of the police of Alexandria; the neighbouring
parts of the desert were also under his authority.
We could not have wished for a more intelligent
and sympathetic man than Colonel Hopkinson. As
an enthusiastic gazelle hunter, he had a great love
of the desert, and until the conclusion of the
later excavations, which he frequently visited
with a military escort, he was a warm friend
and patron of the expedition. “We do not wish
you to be lost in the desert, Father Kaufmann,”
he said to my cousin, when we were studying
the large map of the Libyan district in his office.
It devolved on him to provide us with a military
escort for our explorations. But my cousin
thought it safer for us to travel in Arab dress
without an escort; Hopkinson agreed, and our
success proved him and us right. Hopkinson
Bey gave orders to his subordinates in the police
stations of Mariut to give us assistance. He
placed at our disposal, without any expense to us,


military tents and other things from the Government
stores useful to the expedition.
Meanwhile our cases had arrived from Tripoli,
and we had to see about procuring provisions and
the necessary equipment. As regards instruments,
we had two aneroids, which the officer of the marine
signal station of Fort Napoleon adjusted for us,
compasses, thermometers, rain-gauges, surveying
instruments—among them a very serviceable distance
measure, which we later gave to Herr
Kayser, the chief engineer of the Khedivial railway.
Two excellent cameras, a Kodak and a Bentzin
camera, formed a most important part of our equipment.
It is to be noted that the films specially
packed and prepared for the high temperature
of the desert turned out useless, while ordinary
films purchased in Alexandria, contrary to all
expectation, kept in splendid condition. It generally
happened that the specially prepared article
was a failure. So it was a fortunate thing that
no one had left his ordinary watch at home, for
the “precision-watch” recommended by experts
stopped being precise in the first days of the
journey in the desert.
The Beduins laughed heartily at our “waterbags,”
the production of a well-known Berlin firm.
They acted like filters. The water dropped—
slowly, it is true, but without cessation—in spite of
everything done to stop it, and the old goatskins

used by the Beduins of Scripture saved our lives,
and so contrasted with the poor product of civilization.
It is possible that some evil spirit was against
us. But in any case the traveller should be distrustful
of improvements when equipping an expedition
of this kind.
The usual tinned and preserved provisions were
packed in practical, locked chests. Powder and
shot for the Beduins and ammunition for our two
double-barrelled guns and the revolvers were likewise
carefully packed. Two pocket medicine chests,
fitted according to the directions of Dr. Stendel, the
staff-surgeon-major, and other medicaments, the
selection of which was undertaken by Schiess Pasha,
with directions for the treatment of well-known
native illnesses, were to render us and others
essential service. A compatriot from Hesse, Georg
Ruelberg, the owner of the German pharmacy in
Alexandria, helped us not only then with advice
and deeds, but during the whole period of the
excavations was a kindly counsellor. Vessels of all
sorts, woollen rugs for the variations of temperature
in the desert, and simple khaki clothes with which
the fez was to be worn, and over which we wore
the white burnous purchased in Tunis, completed
our equipment, which was calculated to last a good

[Back to top]



Departure of the caravan—Encampment at Haschm-el-Aisch—
Visitors to the camp: Amadeus Haydn, the negro Emperor's
grandson—I take my cousin for a hostile Beduin—Over the
desert tableland to Wadi Moghara—A forced ride by night:
twenty-two hours in the saddle—The petrified forest and the
pass of “Bab-Frankenfurt”—Sandstorm at Wadi Moghara—
Bathing and hunting at the Salt Lake—The negro grievance
deputation—To Kasr el-Gettajeh—Flight of the Beduin,
Abu Sêt.

AT last the morning of our departure approached.
All details had been arranged with the Mamûr
Markaz, the police-officer of the district of Mariut,
situated west of Alexandria. Mahmud Effendi
Sidky—for he was a namesake and cousin of the
Governor of Alexandria—had procured Beduins
and camels for us, settled the price, and dispatched
the baggage and the rest of the military tents to
the last station of the Khedivial railway, then under
construction, which runs through the coast district
of the desert west from Alexandria. When we
left the carriage we were surrounded by a motley

crew of Auladali Beduins, who looked with curiosity
at men and baggage, and when the Mamûr
appeared, kissed his hand. Five camels lay ready,
and our suite was to be sought among a group
of Beduins taking leave of one another. A few
days before our departure, Schiess Pasha had
placed one of his officials at our disposal to
accompany and assist the caravan. He was an
amiable young man, whose heart, like ours, beat
high with the anticipation of events. The Mamûr
Markaz soon put a stop to the endless farewells of
our future suite, the members of which had not paid
the slightest attention to the arrival of their masters.
Meanwhile Monsignor Kaufmann and I sat down
comfortably on the chests and tent-poles. “Muftah!”
called the Mamûr, “Muftah!” and while he summoned
the leader, the others came up and formed
a circle of white figures, wrapped in the burnous,
round the three of us. In their hands they carried
the nabût, or slung the long Beduin gun over the
When Muftah and his companions had come
up, the Mamûr turned to us and said, taking the
dignified personage by the arm, “This is Muftah
Dabûn, the Sheikh; he is responsible for you with
his life and his whole tribe.” Muftah lifted his
right arm to his brow and breast in token of
respect, and Mamûr placed Muftah's hands in ours.


Then the remainder of the company—in contrast
to the elderly Sheikh, all young men—greeted us.
Eluâni Hamed, the descendant of a “saint”; Abd
el-Al, son of an Arab from Wadi Dafne at Sollum,
and also the Sheikh's son, Abu Sêf Sâle, “father of
the sword.” With the exception of the last, who,
in spite of his terrifying name, was a spoilt child,
and had never been more than a few days' journey
into the desert, all our people were experienced and
travelled persons.
As we wished to set out at once, the camels were
saddled under the eye of the Mamûr. Every one
helped, and so the matter only took an hour. Two
young beasts were selected for us to ride. One
beast carried four large water-skins, and the two
last the baggage, among which there was room for
another rider. The Beduins themselves would take
turn about during a long march and mount one of
the animals in order to get a rest. With the
assistance of the Mamûr the fees were settled as
follows: fifteen large piastres a day (about three
shillings) for the leader, the same for each of the
five camels, and only tips for the rest of the men.
The keep of the men and of the camels was
included in this small sum, which was not to be
paid until the sale return of the expedition. The
Sheikh asked for £3 in advance for his family, and
my cousin gave it him through Mamûr Markaz.


At two o'clock in the afternoon the camels, laden
and covered with soft woollen rugs, lay on their
knees, and for the first time we boarded the ships
of the desert. We tried to preserve our dignity in
the sight of so many people. With a rolling motion
the animals got safely on to their legs; a jerk of
the back, and then a more violent one of the long
stretched-out neck, and the three riders sat perched
high in the air, and for the start the suite led
them with a long leash. Just as we were leaving,
two Europeans came to give us a farewell greeting:
Miralai Kelham, inspector of police, and his wife.
The caravan steered through the centre of the
scanty undergrowth of the hattje, the entrance to
the desert, and very soon not a man was to be seen
near or far.
Our programme was clear and simple. According
to the historical sources, the sanctuary of
Menas lay in the desert between Alexandria,
Wadi Natrûn, and Marmarika. My cousin determined
to go westward to the boundary of Marmarika,
and thence south to Wadi Natrûn.
Ancient remains, of which the Sheikh or some of
the men had knowledge, or of the existence of
which they told, were to be visited and examined,
and for that purpose excursions right and left of
the route were planned. The sanctuary itself was
supposed to be in the interior of the desert, and

therefore from Wadi Natrûn the whole of the
portion known by the name of the Auladali Desert
must be thoroughly explored, even if it became
necessary to return once to the Nile delta in order
to procure fresh supplies of provisions.
So we proceeded westward, and in order to train
in men and beasts, for the first two days we only
marched eight to ten hours, and on the day we
started only five.
The first encampment was made about seven
o'clock in the evening in the midst of the quiet
hattje, near the two dozen palms of Schuêre. It
gave us an opportunity of learning something of our
people and their usefulness. The camels knelt
down and, amid continual bellowings, allowed themselves
to be unloaded. Chests, bags, tents, and skins
lay scattered on the ground. When the camels
were set free they could feed in the neighbourhood.
But our chief threw himself on the ground
and said the sunset evening prayer. No one was
more delighted with this than we were, for we never
imagined that it meant that for the Sheikh the day's
work was ended. His prayer finished, he searched
for dry wood in order to make a little fire, but did
not trouble himself in the least about pitching the
Thus Eluâni, the descendant of a Beduin saint,
was a more valuable acquisition. He understood

everything, and gave his two assistants plenty of
work. Our own activity was limited to arranging
the chests and getting the beds ready, that is, in
spreading the woollen rugs on the ground in the
long, low double tent. Then came a first attack
on the provisions.
Darkness had long set in before we sat down
near the fire on our folding chairs and warmed some
unsweetened condensed milk. Our Beduins, encamped
on the other side of the fire, brewed the
coffee we had given them on the hot ashes, Arab
fashion; we had brought it with us in order to be
able to entertain guests. Only Eluâni accepted the
tobacco; the others, on religious grounds, were abstainers.
To our great astonishment the conversation
of the young sons of the desert turned almost
exclusively on their return home.
In imagination they pictured all they would have
to tell, and how from far and wide men would seek
their ancestral tents in order to hear their experiences.
Although Sheikh Muftah had different
thoughts, in his own way he shared the reflections
of the others. He squatted on the ground a little
apart, with crossed legs, and placed large and
small stones in front of him. Each large stone
represented a day, round which six smaller ones
were grouped. When fourteen days had been laid
out in this way—he thought the journey would last


so long—he counted the small stones and thus
reckoned the number of five-piastre pieces which he
in his own person would earn for his service and
his camels. As evidently he frequently reckoned
wrong, he began the game of patience over and over
The silvery moon had long risen. My cousin
fetched the route-books and diaries, and by the
light of a lantern we began the journal of our travels,
each from a definite fixed point of view. Our
example had apparently a good effect on our third
man, the assistant official whom Schiess Pasha had
given us, who, so far, without parting with his
double-barrelled gun, sat on his camp-stool blowing
clouds of smoke from his short English pipe, now
and then celebrating the wonderful stillness of the
moonlight night with a poetical phrase. Now he
fetched a large black portfolio, ink, and pen out
of the tent and lighted a stearine candle. Then
he wrote and wrote. We had trouble to make
him join us when, about ten o'clock, we crept into
the tent, changed our khaki clothes for sleeping-suits,
and, after a brief prayer, crawled under the
rugs, keeping near us our cartridge-boxes and guns
as faithful sleeping companions.
Abd el-Al had the first night-watch. Gun in
hand, he sat under the open sky immovable among
his sleeping comrades, and looked towards the

east, where at intervals of a minute the dim light
of the lighthouse of Alexandria appeared like a
kindly star. The night passed without disturbance.
Before dawn we were awoke by Sidi Muftah's
prayer, “God is great and Mohammed His prophet!”
It was not necessary to be sparing with
water, since we intended to reach Hamam, the
ancient meeting-place of the Hedscha pilgrims. In
the keen yet soft morning air (the minimum thermometer
did not go below 51° Fahrenheit during
the night) we were in the saddle by 5 a.m., passed
some small ruins of the Roman period, and
reached Bir Hamam about 10 a.m.
At Bir Hamam, where the remains of an ancient
town had been searched for, we were hospitably
entertained in the tent of an Arab who declared, in
well-turned phrases, that his house and property,
(that is, his tent and his horse) were ours, but all the
same could not withstand the temptation of demanding
backschish for the milk we drank.
The next morning the caravan moved on in a
north-westerly direction through the steppes. The
camels went along bravely on the firm ground,
apparently at the rate of about eighty steps per
minute. The beasts and their riders understood
each other, so that my cousin and I felt ourselves
capable of longer independent excursions off the

route, but we were always careful to return to the
point of departure. We carried on a strap round
our necks the official German route-book.
Some difficulty was made during the march
through the desire of the camels to feed wherever
they saw a suitable weed, safsaf, schîje, or the
like, a proceeding which appealed to Sheikh
Muftah, since it saved him fodder. We had our
animals so entirely under control that from our
elevated seats we could risk a shot with the Kodak.
Accompanied by the songs of the sons of the desert,
we rode still in reach of the soft sea-breezes.
The temperature, about 780 Fahrenheit, was
pleasant, and on the gently rising ground from
the low undergrowth of the hattje, single larger
bushes lifted their heads. In the distance these
sporadic bushes assumed an enormous size. They
then looked like trees, but shrank when near to
not much over a yard high. They were thickly
covered with white snail-shells, which shone like
fruit amid the green foliage.
Shortly before 10 a.m. the ridge of Haschm-el-Aisch
appeared like a low range of hills at the foot
of high mountains in the alluvial land of the prehistoric
Nile delta. We passed a desert cemetery,
a group of the longish Beduin grave mounds surrounded
by large blocks of stone, and over all on
an eminence a Sheikh's tomb. Whenever we saw

the black ridge of a tent, Abd el-Al left the caravan
and hastened towards it on foot, in order to convey
our greetings, and naturally to be asked about the
aim and purpose of our journey. Such was the
ancient desert custom, and neglect of it would have
been to court danger. If the Sheikh spied persons
approaching, a thing his hawk's eye accomplished
more infallibly than our binoculars, our escort
quickly compared views, and one of the people, his
long gun-barrel shining brilliantly in the sun, went
forward, the caravan slightly lessening its pace, in
order to see who it was. It happened that even
mounted men suddenly changed their route when
they saw our seven guns. In one case Muftah
Dabûn thought it well for us to make a detour,
and he justified it by declaring that the persons
visible in the far distance were enemies of his
family. We could never get him to tell us how he
recognized them, although the Italian attendant
helped out our Arabic, for we were fairly inexperienced
in the practical use of the native
Bir Haschm-el-Aisch was reached at a quarter to
three. It was a subterranean well-house in the
ridge of hills of that name. The camels lay down
on the stony ground covered with a fair amount of
undergrowth. A tent was soon pitched, and by its
side waved the German flag on a short pole. The



afternoon was to be employed in examining a large
field of ruins that, according to the Sheikh, was
situated in the immediate neighbourhood.
We here had a foretaste of the wells of the
desert and their water. The goat-skins which had
been freshly filled in Bir Hamam were to be
reserved for the next day, and I desired to quench
my thirst with the fresh water of the springs of the
desert, and went off to the Bir, which was about a
dozen yards from the tent. Bir Haschm-el-Aisch
is a half ruinous old cave, with traces of plaster and
some Arabic scribbling, as well as signs of caravans
and individual travellers. Through a wide opening
we clambered into the well-house, which was about
twelve and a half yards long. A short narrow
passage led from it down to the spring, a small
mud cauldron in which, except in the rainy season,
there was never more than a pailful of water, and
when it was drawn off, it refilled in about a quarter
of an hour. We soon became accustomed to the
dark muddy liquid. This time we used the
charcoal filter, and after a long wait, greatly to
the astonishment of our attendants, it yielded a
few glasses of clear water. Later we boldly
renounced this wearisome method and drank the
water as it came and suffered no harm thereby.
The name of the place is given in English maps
as Ashim el esch; but Dr. Junker, in his plan of

the north-east part of the Libyan Desert which
appeared in Petermann's “Mitteilungen,” 1880, gives
it as pronounced to-day by the Auladali, Dschebel
Haschm-el-Aisch. The etymology is not quite
clear. Our Beduins declared that “Haschm” was
Beduin for nose, and “ische” for evening, thus
“nose of the evening,” because of the long shape of
the hills stretching westward.
The summit of Haschm-el-Aisch is a gently
rising stony plateau that in the north and north-east
falls steeply down to the flat shore of the
Mediterranean. Three Sheikhs' tombs greet the
traveller from afar, and when he ascends the rocks
he sees with astonishment that their stone crown
conceals ancient hewn material. The sudden
descent of the plateau, which represents nothing
more nor less than the acropolis of an ancient town,
the sight of endless plains terminating in the sea,
was delightful after a long march through the flat
steppes that form the entry to the desert. With
the help of two of our men the ground was preliminarily
sounded, and Monsignor Kaufmann
determined to remain there a few days, as the
district apparently contained important ruins.
Three caves were discovered. We let ourselves
down a deep chasm in turn, and two of our men,
who accompanied us for protection and aid, easily
climbed down perpendicularly by means of the

hewn out hand and feet holes. The “spirits”
prevented entrance into a cistern, since they kept a
by no means pleasant snake ready to receive you at
the bottom. Naturally, such subterranean ruins
were first tested for fear of gases, etc., and for that
purpose, after many years' interval, my cousin's
“catacomb lamp,” a metal vessel with a handle and
movable top in which was a hole for a thick wax
spiral, was used. It was let down alight by a rope
in order to see if the air was pure.
On the ground of the eminence we could distinctly
trace the foundation lines of different
buildings, of which one in the shape of a semi-cross
was perhaps a basilica. There were also indications
that the hill was once strongly fortified and
protected by walls. My cousin was convinced that
the summit of Haschm-el-Aisch, which commanded
the whole district, was undoubtedly a citadel of
a Byzantine foundation, resting on a Roman or
perhaps a more ancient basis. As he now writes to
me, this “key to Mareotis and postern-gate of
Marmarika” is evidently identical with one of the
fortified places of Ptolemy.
From the “bridge of the evening's nose” we saw
a large tent standing alone in the northern plain.
Its white colour made us think it a Beduin one.
After we had returned home, the master of the tent
came, mounted on a white camel, to greet us. He

was a sergeant of the coastguard, a tall negro.
Who can depict our astonishment when the stylish-looking
fellow, in a yellow khaki uniform, armed
with revolver, carbine, and the enormous kurbasch,1 gracefully dismounted, touched his yellow
fez, and saluted us in three civilized languages:
“Good afternoon, sir,” “Bonjour, messieurs,”
“Meine Herren, guten Tag”?2 He threw a careless
“Neharak saïde” at the Beduins. He ordered
them as if it was a matter of course to look after
his steed, the beautifully caparisoned white camel.
Then he sat down on the chair we offered him, did
not despise whisky and cigarettes, and related his
life's story, and to this day I am uncertain if he
was wholly or partly lying.
1 Horsewhip used on the Nile.
2 Good day.
His name was Amadeus Haydn, his birthplace
Rio, in Brazil, his grandfather the Emperor Don
Pedro! He knew Dresden and Vienna, kept a
diary of the events of his life and other matters,
among which the archaeological notes were specially
valuable to us. We would gladly have purchased
his drawings, but the petit-fils of Don Pedro would
not consent. To the question why, considering his
origin and his knowledge, he had not made a greater
success in life, he said he preferred a life of freedom,
and when he had asked for and swallowed a fresh


glass of whisky, he added in a whisper that perhaps
the “damned” whisky was somewhat responsible.
The black grandson of an emperor took his leave
in the evening, having been presented with
cigarettes and a box of sardines, and invited us to
return his visit. Sheikh Muftah accompanied him
down to the plain in order to pay him special
honour while wild jackals bayed the moon.
We were forced to encamp at Haschm-el-Aisch
somewhat longer than we liked. We had to get
rid of our Italian servant, who fitted in nowhere,
and so, although personally a pleasant, nice fellow,
was really a burden to the expedition. A discovery
about the endless treatises that he wrote each
evening by candlelight determined us and explained
his elegiac moods: they were love-letters!
He parted from us unwillingly, and on his account I
went back post-haste to Alexandria to explain
matters to Schiess Pasha, and took the opportunity
to supplement our provisions.
I returned the visit of the emperor's grandson by
myself, with our Sheikh, on an excursion to the
ruins of EI-Almaida, on the coast. His spacious
military tent, in which he dwelt with three other
negroes, naturally Africans, in order to prevent the
smuggling of haschisch, was clean and tidy, and the
most precious thing that Amadeus Haydn offered
me was crystal-clear water, which was regularly

furnished to the military posts from Bir Hamam in
zinc chests brought on camel-back. The swift ride
through the plain to EI-Almaida, through the
wonderful morning air, was a beneficial change.
On our return at sunset, Sheikh Muftah discovered
a white figure on the slopes of Haschm-el-Aisch,
which we were quickly approaching, lying
among the rocks with gun in readiness. We clearly
saw the barrel glitter, and considered it wise to
reach our camp, where a signal-fire was burning,
by a detour, and as quickly as possible. Arrived
there I quickly solved the mystery. My cousin was
absent, so that only he could have been the enemy
whom we escaped with such anxiety. But Monsignor
Kaufmann had also been in great trouble.
Alone in the field of ruins he had seen two armed
riders approaching at a gallop, and in the twilight
did not recognize them; he took us for enemies and
lay in ambush ready for anything.
Early in the morning of June 19th the camp at
Haschm-el-Aisch was broken up, and at 5 a.m.
the caravan was already on the march in the
borderland of Mariut and Marmarika. The day
before the water-skins had been freshly filled at
Bir Hamam. We went in a south-westerly direction
through the low undergrowth of the sandy
plain. The continual whistling of the Sheik or the
hoarse “Ha, ha, ha” kept the well-fed animals at an

even pace one behind the other. The moon rode
high in front of the caravan, and if we looked round
we saw the blood-red disk of the sun. The plateau
of Haschm-el-Aisch flattened out noticeably, and
the first gazelles were seen, four shy, pretty
creatures, leaping merrily. And so the ships
of the desert glided into the sandy plain of El-Halfa,
a district of special interest for the naturalist,
because, according to tradition, it was where the
great prehistoric arm of the Nile had its mouth.
In order that we might be able to reconnoitre the
ground thoroughly, Sheikh Muftah planned to halt
at the next Arab tent we came across. Towards
noon the temperature rose to 1130, and we were
glad to find the tent of a friendly Sheikh and
to encamp there. Our dinner menu was Quaker
oats and tinned salmon, and that of the Beduins
their horrible flat cakes of bread baked with onions
in the ashes. In the evening a fine black and
white sheep was sacrificed, which the EI-HaIfa
Beduins sold us for twelve shillings, and which was
so greatly appreciated that Sheikh Muftah said his
prayers twice over that night, a thing that always
happened whenever there was roast mutton or
roast gazelle.
A dinner of mutton in the desert is most
romantic. It is the custom for the seller to share
it as guest, and also any wanderer by the way.

It would be the greatest breach of patriarchal
custom not to allow the stranger who passes by at
mealtime or while food is being prepared to share
it. Sheikh Muftah reckoned with this imperative
necessity, as with his own and his Beduins' appetite.
During the killing three Arabs came riding
up, and so he quickly took the pan off the fire, hid
the meat in a sack, and made his Arab coffee, in
which the guests, Beduins from the west, shared.
To Muftah's terror, and as a punishment for his
cunning, the lean, bearded fellows hung about for
hours, for they had evidently smelt fresh meat. At
last they departed just as we returned from our
We left the plain of EI-HaIfa after midnight
under a sky of black rain-clouds which looked
ready to burst, and we had a lively altercation with
the Sheikh, whose “mafisch schitte”1 seemed impossible
to believe. And yet he was right. By
candlelight we ate pieces of mutton roasted in the
ashes and drank broth with it, while the cracking
of the bones betrayed that the others were making
quick work of the remainder, which was all in
order. For in the desert boiled or roast meat
keeps good at most a day. Near the camels,
already saddled, dogs might be seen as further
boarders who had scented the banquet from afar.
1 “No rain.”


Our course now lay south into the desert itself.
We crossed the route of the western Arabs,
marked by occasional alame. They are signposts
in the shape of slender heaps of stones. But
the route showed still more clearly bleached
skeletons, which tell the fate of one's immediate
precursors in dangerous regions. It almost seemed
as if the character of our escort changed on entering
the actual desert. Before, in the early hours
of the morning they used to march along shivering,
the silence broken only by the monotonous “yap,
yap, yap” or the encouraging “ha, ha, ha, ha.”
The children of the sun shivered in their white
woollen burnous saturated with the night dew.
As soon as the region without vegetation was
entered everything was different; there, outside
the pale of civilization, they felt themselves the
true sons of the earth. When the sun rose there
was a general shout of jubilation, in which we
gladly joined. Muftah and Eluâni, who had formerly
been sparing of powder, rode to the attack
on their heavily laden camels, jumped off, fired
under the necks of our own animals, who did not
move a hair, and sang breezy verses which we
had not heard before. It seemed as if the curtain
of a great romantic stage was rising in front of
us. Every fresh mist which rolled off showed
sharper contours, the desert grew larger, and as

the sun got the upper hand became interminable.
Only the aneroid told us we were always
ascending, the last dark traces of the landscape
we had left faded away, and at the same time
Dschebel el-Boheb rose on the horizon out of the
stony desert, and later, about 8 a.m., we saw in
the far distance the ravine Gared el-Laban, with
its short, steeply-falling chain of hills. After 9 a.m.
we rode across them to the right of Gared el-Laban.
At 11 a.m. we passed the remains of a
little petrified forest, the thickest trunks of which
had a diameter of 9 or 10 inches. At the same
time we saw a herd of gazelles, and determined
to camp in the neighbourhood. The heat was very
great and about 2 p.m. reached 1220 Fahr., and the
fatigue of a ten hours' march justified that
decision without the pleasant prospect of roast
meat for dinner.
After a brief search Sheikh Muftah found a
cauldron-shaped depression with a little vegetation
in the sandy ground and low dunes around, an
admirable and safe camping-ground. Although
Muftah is one of the best gazelle-hunters of Mariut,
neither he nor Eluâni, an equally excellent shot,
had any luck in a chase of two hours. The ground
was too flat, and the supple deer of the desert
could sight the enemy a mile off. At 4 p.m. the
thermometer was still at 1150 Fahr., and it was

only at six in the evening that a light refreshing
breeze began to blow. We then loaded and
saddled the animals for the first night-ride.
The next night the stars were, in the truest sense
of the word, our guides. And to our question how
he could be sure of finding the right way in the
wild, monotonous desert, Sheikh Muftah answered
by confidently pointing to the sky; he meant chiefly
the pole-star. In order to procure water (what
we had in the skins already began to taste very
nasty) a forced march was undertaken to the
nearest well, far to the south at Wadi Moghara;
its distance from EI-HaIfa was reckoned three
long days' journey. As the skins had not been
filled again since the evening before the departure
from Haschm-el-Aisch, very little was now left of
the original six gallons of water. If the hourly
evaporation during the hot part of the day is
reckoned, six thirsty throats had to be satisfied
with it; had any accident occurred, such as an unforeseen
delay or a necessary detour, things might
have turned out badly, and the constantly changing
character of the sandy dunes made it only too easy
to lose the way. We did not, however, think of
the possible breakage of one of the water gheerbahs.
Muftah was conscious of his responsibility, and,
regardless of the fatigue of the undertaking, he
decided that, with a brief rest at midnight, we

should go on without a break till the wells were
reached—a forced ride of twenty-two hours, not
reckoning the pauses.
The romantic side of the ride was unfortunately
greatly lessened by the fatigue. Dates and dried
plums, eaten in the saddle, formed our food. It
was carried in the famous Berlin water-bags, which
hung from our saddle pommels and admirably fulfilled
their new duties.
The camels, roped in a long row, stepped out
more quickly. We camped for a couple of hours
near Gared el-Laban without unsaddling. Each lay
down beside his beast wrapped in rugs, and at
2.30 a.m., still dead-tired, we were again marching
southwards. I found myself in a condition of utter
indifference. My cousin was in a far more parlous
state, for he was continually falling asleep on his
camel, and ran the risk of falling off and being
killed. Therefore we both had the greater and
more unstinted admiration for the only person
who fitted into the situation, Sheikh Muftah. He
danced along on foot by our side, his weapons
slung on him, and invented the funniest jokes in
order to keep us awake. And he kept up that
behaviour until the plentiful and cool morning
dew refreshed us. During the night we had
crossed with great care a many-chasmed line of
hills, which at six in the morning we saw shining


far behind us in splendid clearness, and looking
like a chain of mountains. Then traces of petrified
forests appeared again, and for half an hour we
went through the numerous fragments of trunks
of trees.
We then rode down over the Dschebel ed-Dara,
situated in the direction of the oasis Siwa,
and full of geological interest. There begins the
fantastic ravine which we—as it forms the best
and most romantic descent from the high table-land
to the Libyan Desert, and as it had no
name—baptized Bab-Frankenfurt: gate or pass
of Frankenfurt. We dismounted here in order to
take measurements and photographs, and, seated
on the stony trunks of trees, wrote our observations
in our diaries. After so long a march through the
desert, Bab-Frankenfurt presented a fine picture.
From the top of the pass loomed the distant chain
of Gared Saadêh. Beneath us, about 300 feet
below, stretched the endless desert, broken by a
long, green, flat piece of land, with the blue basin of
a salt lake, the long shape of which made the whole
look like a river valley. The precipitous eastern
wall of the pass, in which waves of sand lost
themselves among the petrified trunks of trees,
rose above us.
We rode down the pass, and at the further edge
of the wadi saw the six white tents of a military

station. About ten o'clock, amid incessant shots
of welcome, we reached a group of four Beduin
tents, where the women greeted us with the shrill
sarlûl. It was high time that we pitched our
tents, for a sandstorm was well on the way.
We fixed the camp a few hundred paces from
the Beduin tents. Already from the top of the
pass Muftah had realized what was toward.
Scarcely were the tents fixed and the most necessary
preparations completed, when the storm broke
into the wadi and its waves beat against the cliffs
of the plateau. It was fortunate that we had chosen
in Alexandria low military tents. The more comfortable
high ones would have been carried away
by the first gust of wind. But even so the situation
was serious, and, as we were dreadfully tired, really
dangerous. The glasses of condensed milk which
we carried to our mouths received their complement
of “zimt”; the fine dust penetrated into the guns
and revolvers as boldly as into boxes, chests,
and rugs. Everything, above all the apparatus,
had to be quickly hidden; our escort crowded
into the tent, and from within held the cloth fast,
since the stakes, deeply rammed into the sandy
ground as they were, seemed to give. And with
it all there was a burning heat with a proportionately
low thermometer. A sound of breathing on
the ground excited our curiosity, and looking out

of the tent we noted the clever tactics of the camels.
They lay with their long necks close against the
sand, their heads turned, as a protection, to the
north side of our tent. Their eyes were shut, and
they lay as if dead.
The hot wind lasted the whole day. We only
ventured to excavate ourselves about five in the
evening. A large caravan from the south had
come up in the storm and was now steering for
Before our Beduins thought of themselves they
looked after the camels, who had had no water for
five days. They drank while we took our guns to
pieces and thoroughly cleaned them. The fine
sand had even penetrated the mechanism, and our
Kodak, hygrometer, and other instruments refused
to work. A soldier came down from the military
station to greet the arrivals. He did not know the
German flag. What he told us of his station was
something of a tragedy. The Beduins were hostile
to the post, which was thirteen men strong; it had
been placed in this exposed position in the desert
only on account of temporary and political grounds.
Our visitor had been nine times under fire, and as
a proof showed us scars in his leg and arm. It
resulted that the garrison was repeatedly without
provisions and that soldiers perished in marching
through the desert. We were implored to compose

a memorandum and to lay their grievances before
the Pasha. But without our intervention the
abandonment of the post had already been planned
at Alexandria, and the next year the soldiers were
We gave the representative of Egyptian civilization
the little that we thought we could spare.
Muftah was dispatched to procure a sheep for
supper. Rest was not to be thought of. Sick
Sudan negroes from the caravan sought the Hakîm,
the physician, whose rôle fell to me. All who had
legs came out of the neighbouring tents, especially
the wholly or semi-naked children, and assailed
us with questions. The older persons received a
portion of coffee and tobacco, and nothing caused
these big children more astonishment than Meyer's
two little Arabic conversation dictionaries, which
we so often had to consult. They thought that by
their means we could answer anything and everything,
and that such power could reside in so tiny
a kitâb1 appeared to them magic. They would
have greatly liked to try our guns, but that was
firmly refused. At 7.30 p.m., at a temperature
of 820 Fahr., we began our supper of mutton.
As usual, Muftah had said his prayers twice
1 Book.
The fatigues of the last days took their revenge


in that the nights did not bring us refreshing sleep.
In addition, we were invaded by swarms of blood-thirsty
mosquitoes from the salt lake. We had
mosquito-nets with us, it is true, but they served
only for the hands and head, the low tents not
permitting a more extended use of the protection.
On the morning of June 23rd I woke with a bad
headache and a feeling of sickness. A dose of
quinine did good service, and without that most
important remedy for travellers in the desert the
malaria protozoa would have had an easy victim.
My cousin that morning made an expedition alone
on one of the camels through the wadi.
Before the mid-day meal we waded together
down to the salt lake. The ground consisted
of undulating dunes about 3 feet in height,
among which grew tamarisks and some fodder
for the camels. A red, edible fruit of the size of
the beads of a rosary, “aineb-ed-dib,” grew on
single tall thorn bushes, which the Beduins call
“rárdak” (ghardag), identical with Ascherson's
Nitraria retusa. Fairly near the camp we found
a group of springs. When the Beduins dug up
the ground in that place, a thing they always do
with their hands, after getting through a layer of
sand seldom more than 6 feet deep, they struck a
muddy liquid that after some time cleared off to a
bright yellow; it was drinkable and had a slightly

brackish taste. In that way Abd el-Al and Abu
Séf dug out a very large spring, and when we
passed stood naked in the muddy water. At such
places the gheerbahs were easily filled by means of
a pail, and pails or cooking utensils served also for
the camels to drink out of, a process which claims
endless time and patience.
It took a short hour to reach the lake from the
camp. The dunes fell suddenly down to the green
rushy valley, in which the silvery surface of the salt
lake glittered in the sun. Over the dry, black crust
of mud my cousin, Eluâni, and I reached the clear
water. Eluâni ventured into the sea of rushes on
the right in order to dislodge “hammâm,” by
which term he understood a covey of ducks. He
did not fail to shoot some. While Eluâni was so
occupied we entered the water and had an excellent
Returning home after hunting and bathing, we
found our tent full of Sudanese soldiers. The
little garrison had come down in order to gain
intercessors at Alexandria, and one of the Askari
had even brought the most beautiful gift that can
be made in the desert, crystal-clear water. The
chief spoke English and showed a childish glee
when we offered him tobacco and a little whisky.
The poor fellow had been a whole year at his post
and longed for the fleshpots of Egypt. According

to his statement, at certain times of the year the
wadi is occupied by as many as a hundred Beduin
tents, and once or twice a month he received orders
from his superior, a German officer in the Egyptian
The visit of the soldiers en masse had an unpleasant
result in so far that from that moment no
Arab came near the tent. Sheikh Muftah, who
had implored us not to show too friendly a hospitality
to the Askari, looked very serious. About
evening, by way of precaution, the position of the
camp was changed and a double guard posted at
night. That day the maximum temperature in the
shade was only 1110 Fahr. The rapid rise of the
hygrometer was striking, showing the great increase
of damp from 300 at two o'clock to 700 at eight
o'clock. From the new camp we had a unique
view of Ras el-Bakar, the cow-mountain, looking in
the evening light like a lofty range of mountains
which ascended in the south to the caravan route
that led to the oasis of Bacharije. We reclined in
our folding-chairs and breathed the refreshing night
wind. The camels cowered underneath a rárdak
9 feet high with its big thorns. The beasts
were given this time scheïr1 mixed with chopped
straw as extra nourishing food. Sheikh Muftah
said his evening prayer twice over, for the third
1 Grain.

sheep since our departure had been compelled
to die.
In the night of June 24th the camels and our
water-skins took in fresh water, and soon after
2 a.m. our caravan left the lonely desert valley.
We marched over the stony desert through the
ravine Dschebel Somâra, which rises east of
Moghara up to the Libyan tableland that we
had left by Bab-Frankenfurt. Instead of choosing
the frequented caravan route to the Wadi
Faregh and the Natrûn valley, we preferred to
go straight over the desert plateau to the well of
Emselich, and thence to march the whole length
of Wadi Natrûn. This route also offered interesting
erosions, and remains of a petrified forest.
The most remarkable feature to my mind were
the enormous gravel dunes, 10 yards in height,
some of which we climbed in order to collect
specimens, not unlike the Rhine pebbles, of the
little stones, mostly round as a bullet and of a
transparent yellow, about one-third of an inch in
diameter. In the course of the day we crossed
a low range of hills which had no name, and at
noon we pitched our tents east of Dschebel
el-Farr, in sight of Dschebel el-Laban, after a
fata Morgana of two sinuous lakes had deceived
us. We took them quite certainly for salt lakes
of the Natrûn valley, while Sheikh Muftah with


his “Only air, no water” gave the correct explanation.
In the evening there appeared at the camp, as
a welcome guest in the midst of the barren desert
—a wagtail. As it turned out, such birds were to be
seen every evening. The jackals howled at night,
but no one was inclined to go out hunting. The
next day, after a short march, we came in sight
of four conical-shaped mountains which looked
like volcanoes; two were separate, the others
were twins. The Beduins called the remarkable
group El-Lischa. We shivered in the morning
dew, although at 4.30 a.m. the thermometer stood
at 72° Fahr. The sun rose on the horizon while
the half-moon shone overhead and the wagtail
accompanied us.
We crossed Dschebel Scharraff, which Junker's
map places too close to the edge of Wadi
Natrûn. It consists partly of immense slabs of
mica, then sand again, and here and there basalt
comes to light. The whole district between Gared
el-Laban and our goal, Bir Emselich, has important
geological interest. The sand of the desert is
mingled with stones of the desert and fields of
mica, flats with slight vegetation pass into absolute
stone pavement, single slabs of which are
sometimes of enormous size, and sometimes so
evenly joined that they look like the work of

human hands. The hills, not mere sandy dunes,
are mostly conical, with deep crater-like clefts
between them.
Bir Emselich was reached the following day.
The waterless well is situated on a large stony
hill, the Dschebel of a similar name. A square
entrance leads down a depth of 6 yards and
gives access to a not very spacious reservoir.
The caravan marched from Bir Emselich at first
in a northerly, then in an easterly direction.
After a few hours over sand and stones, signs of
vegetation began to show that we were approaching
the edge of the Natrûn valley at its
northern end. The character of the wadi is
here that of the hattje; gazelles appeared in
greater numbers, and a herd of feeding camels.
The crossing of the Libyan Desert from
Moghara to Haschm-el-Aisch took three days.
On June 27th we again found ourselves on the
site of an ancient town, the last remaining token
of which is a little building for divine worship,
Kasr el-Gettajeh. Abu Sêf, the “father of the
sword,” and Eluâni helped the whole day in
measuring and digging up the ruins. A pillar
some 8 feet high, lying among the ruins, was set
free, and numerous architectural pieces of beautiful
white marble were found. The only inscriptions
found at the Kasr were later Arabic, and

a few wall-writings of European travellers like
Pacho, who first visited the place, and also
Dr. Gotschlick, the name of a well-known
physician of Alexandria whose acquaintance we
had made at Schiess Pasha's, as well as the
name David and an illegible name.
The little Kasr measures some 7 yards long,
and 5 broad, and 4 high, and in modern times
served as a mosque. The shoulders of a cupola
were to be recognized and also the prayer niche.
Our stay at Kasr el-Gettajeh was not to end without
a surprise, which Abu Sêf had evidently long
prepared. A spoilt child, as we remarked before,
he had for some days suffered from home-sickness.
Under pretext of gazelle hunting he asked, after
he had industriously helped us all day, for some
powder, with which he and a camel vanished.
He had heard from a shepherd that there were
friendly Arab tents in the neighbourhood and
obeyed the call home. The affair caused us
great embarrassment, especially as the number of
the camels was now reduced to four. Whether
Sheikh Muftah was in the secret has never been
discovered. The fact is that the Mamûr Markaz
declared later that he had given the “father of
the sword” a good thrashing. In order to
prevent further attempts at flight, especially on
the part of Abd el-Al, who suffered from sleeplessness

and indigestion, Monsignor Kaufmann
told the Sheikh that Abu Sêf by his act had
forfeited all claims to backschish, and he should
not think of paying the amount due to the man
who had escaped with the camel. This worked
wonders and helped to discipline the remaining

[Back to top]



The salt valley and the prehistoric Libyan Nile—We find bones
of old African fauna—Heathen and Christian sanctuaries of
Wadi Natrûn—Four strongholds in the sea of sand—Remains
of the “hundred monasteries”—A journey through the
Natrûn valley—Sheikh Muftah loses the way—The first
tents of the Schuâbi—Arrival at Bir Hooker—Visit to Dêr
Baramûs—The monks take us for enemies—Cordial reception
in the monkish citadel—At the shrine of the “princes”
—Wanderings through churches and dungeons—Amba John
of Abyssinia—The monastery of the Syrians—Mangled
library treasures—Dêr Amba Bischâ—The salines—Ride to
Dêr Makâr—The tomb of the patriarch of the monks and
the grotto of the forty-nine Sheiks.

THE salt valley, Wadi en Natrûn, the romance of
which is only fully realized by those who traverse
for a long distance the depression surrounded by
ravines and deserts under the burning Libyan sun,
once bore the name Wadi el-Habib, “Valley of
Love.” And the name seemed to be justified when
on the morning of June 28th, after a fatiguing ride

over stony wastes, we recognized in the distant
undergrowth the black tents of the Schuâbi, and
gradually approached the first well. Soft breezes
were blowing, and we breathed amid luxurious
vegetation. The nervous irritation caused by the
everlasting hurry, investigations and travelling,
increased by the lack of all comforts, gave way to
a pleasant enervation. Even young Abd el-Al,
who rarely emerged from his mixture of absolute
kismêt and relative Beduin pride, woke into life,
and his pleasant voice sounded delightfully on
the edge of the wadi when, swinging his rifle, he
walked in front of the caravan, and in monotonous
rhythm sang his endless ritornelle: “Thy love
resembles the lighthouse, which shines out to the
distance; like the spring which the eye sees in the
desert and which brings rain; like an overflowing
river from which no swimmer escapes; like the fire
which consumes all things! The springs of love
are long since destroyed, no water flows therein!”
The Natrûn valley not only belongs to the great
historical places of the Libyan Desert, but is from a
geological point of view the most interesting, and in
conjunction with the south-west bifurcating Wadi
Faregh, the most important part of prehistoric
Egypt. Although it is easy of access, and is provided
with admirable places for making investigations
of every kind, only small expeditions of narrow

and limited aims have so far skimmed rather than
sounded ground so rich in problems. I may name
the latest investigations on the part of Germany,
the geographical and geological observations of
Professor Stromer of Reichenbach, the results of
which may be found in the treatises of the Senckenberg
Physical Research Society at Frankfort-on-
Main. The interest of most of the visitors is
concentrated on the old monasteries and the buildings
of the Salt Company. Therefore serviceable
maps are wanting as soon as the boundaries of the
salt lakes are passed. The entrance to the Natrûn
valley is situated close to the metropolis of the
Caliphs, near the pyramids of Abu Roâsch. After
a day's journey to the west over serir and stony
wastes, the valleys of Faregh and en-Natrûn
bifurcate, at first almost invisibly and then in a
more accentuated way, through higher, even
steep ridges, which at the slopes of the plateau by
the monastery of Macarius assume the character of
a rocky landscape. The north-westerly Natrûn
valley winds and soon expands to several miles in
breadth; the oasis basins surrounded by the desert
present, in correspondence with the direction of the
valley, a series of lakes, according to the season, at
times ten in number. At Haschm-el-Aisch and
near Kasr el-Gettajeh, the points already visited
by us, the sides of the valley are almost lost again

in the remaining eminences of the desert, and the
wadi, becoming narrower, makes for the Mediterranean.
It merges into the coast at Wadi Halfa,
the starting-point of our journey to Moghara. As
a whole the salt valley should be compared with a
river valley which once formed a third, western
arm of the Nile, proceeding from the delta at Cairo,
and flowing into the Mediterranean between the old
provinces of Mareotis and Marmarika. The remembrance
of this prehistoric Nile is still alive in
the desert. It is not only that the water of its wells
brings the Beduins into direct connection with the
“Bacher en-Nil.” South of the wadi there is a
depression in the desert which has borne for ages
the designation of the “waterless river” (“Bacher
bela mâ”). In the Roman period a river existed in
the neighbourhood of the Natrûn district which is
called “Lycus Fluvius” in the original authorities.
Even if that river was only a canal which served
to irrigate the wadi and part of the Auladali
Desert, the problem of the “Bacher bela mâ,” the
prehistoric Nile, still remains to be solved. We
happened in the wadi to come on the definite
course of the waterless river, in which lay groups
of petrified trees.
Blanckenhorn, who has written the history of
the prehistoric Libyan Nile and has thoroughly
studied it and the geology of the district,



considers the remains of the petrified forests to
be alluvial wood of the ancient Nile. When
later on, in 1906, I went to Siwa with the
Khedive, our caravan passed numerous remains
of petrified marine creatures, colonies of sea-urchins,
oyster and coral banks, objects which attracted
the attention of the ancient geographer, Eratosthenes.
They prove that in prehistoric times
the whole of the north of the Libyan Desert was
a sea-bottom. According to Blanckenhorn, the
districts in which the Natrûn valley, the city
of Menas and Alexandria are situated were
inland seas in the central pliocene age, and the
inundation district of the Nile of to-day only
developed from the so-called rainy season. The
examination of the remains of marine and river
bones from the north-west part of Libya afforded
a wider and unexpected result. Blanckenhorn's
work in that direction sweeps away the old
hypothesis that the mammals now found in Africa
only lately dispossessed the primitive animals of
Africa, that Madagascar alone has preserved the
original animal world as a detached African district,
and that antelopes, elephants, rhinoceroses, and
horses wandered in the pliocene age from Europe
to Africa! All that is now exploded and untenable,
for the bones found in the district of the
prehistoric Nile and its maritime mouth incontrovertibly

show that Africa is the original home of
its contemporary fauna.
The oasis of the Natrûn Lakes owes its fame
to the salt extracted therefrom and to its sanctuaries.
The ancient Egyptians called it “Sochetheman,”
the Romans “the salt field” and “Nitriae
mons.” The monasteries and hermitages of the
Christian epoch had their forerunners in the
sanctuaries of the heathens. Where now there
is desert and a continual struggle with nature on
account of the scanty vegetation there was in
the classic times of Egypt fertile land, with fruits
of all kinds, olives, vines, and grain. An inscription
in the principal temple at Edfu records the
deities honoured in the oasis of the salt region,
names the Horus town Schorp, the “regions of
the goddess Courage,” “the town of the valley,”
and other settlements, no stone of which now
exists among the sand-dunes. The Horus town,
with its temple and magnificent statue of the
god, was situated on the mysterious mountain of
Unnofer, by which the ancient Egyptians meant
the hilly land of the desert.
But the brilliant epoch in the history of the
wadi was in the time of the early Christians.
Under pressure of persecution, especially at the
time of the persecution of the Christians under
the Emperor Decius (249-251), many fled from

the valley of the Nile into the desert, and there in
concealment led a holy life. Two men who are
of the greatest importance for the history of
monachism were such fugitives—Amonius and
Macarius. St. Amonius is what Antony the
Hermit was for the Theban desert, the patriarch
of the monkish life of the future in the desert of
the Natrûn valley. Wealthy from birth, he left
his wife with her consent in order to establish
the first monastery in the Nitrian Desert, the
monks of which lived in isolated cells, and only
assembled together for worship and edification on
the Lord's Day and its eve. At the same time,
in 330, St. Macarius repaired to the desert, in
which he lived and taught for sixty years; at
the end of the fourth century the communities
founded by these pioneers of monachism numbered
5,000 souls.
Of the “hundred monasteries” which arose in
the course of centuries from those beginnings,
four still exist, namely, the “Laura of the
Romans,” Dêr Baramûs; the Syrian convent,
Dêr es-Surjani; the Dêr Amba Bischâi and the
Macarius convent. We saw ruins of others, of
the Maria convent of the Abyssinians, and that
of the Armenians. A mediaeval Arab writer
from Baalbek named Makrizi counted nine monasteries,
among them one of St. Elias, of St. John

Kolobos, of St. Nub. If the number is exaggerated
which gave the valley its name “of the hundred
convents,” so may be the Coptic account that
60,000 monks with palm-branches went out to
meet General Amr ibn el'-As in order to make
a favourable impression of the power of the
monasteries. At any rate, and here all the reports
agree, the monkish settlements were of great
extent, and it is deeply to be regretted that the
swords of the Mohammedans destroyed almost
all the remains of their ancient splendour.
The night before our arrival in the actual
wadi we very nearly had the misfortune to
lose our Sheikh. He had gone alone on a
gazelle hunt, and had been belated in the serîr.
Our low tent and scanty fire (for we lacked fuel,
and it consisted only of camel-dung collected
during the march and dried in the sun), in spite
of the sacrifice of much paper, were only visible
in the twilight some thousand paces away. The
simplest and the most usual means in such cases,
to discharge the guns vertically, which combined
the advantage of a shower of fire upwards with
a sound audible at a distance, failed. Muftah, who
was well provided with ammunition, would certainly
have answered the first shot. So we were
not a little alarmed when at nightfall the Sheikh
had not returned. We took counsel about what

should be done. That he had lost his way
caused less anxiety than the fear that he had
been surprised in the district of the Schuâbi.
Eluâni, who knew everything and continually
proved it, found a way out. He asked for
“warrak rebir,” by which he meant newspaper,
a large quantity of which was taken with us
and used daily for table-napkins, tablecloths, and
wrapping paper. He then led his camel as far
into the desert as he could without the possibility
of losing himself, left me to hold the animal,
jumped upon it, and fired a shot in the air, and
as no reply came, followed with a second. We
waited and waited in absolute stillness and darkness,
but in vain. Now the newspaper came into
action. Eluâni fastened a large bunch firmly
to the mouth of his gun, set light to it, and
swung the torch high in the air, slowly and in
wide half-circles. Again anxiety, listening, waiting:
but Muftah Dabûn gave back no sign. Eluâni
was nothing daunted. While we feared that
such demonstrations might perhaps cause danger
to our own camp, he remained aloft on his living
pedestal, fired his gun every five minutes, and
brandished his newspaper torch. And after the
fifteenth shot, out of the farthest distance one
came in reply. Muftah had heard us, and, thanks
to further fruitful signals, he returned to the

camp in the course of an hour, but without
After a six-hours' ride we encamped at the above-mentioned
first tents of the Schuâbi. Near a bir
which was nothing more than a hole dug out and
full of water, like that of Moghara, grew some
scanty fodder for the camels. The water was almost
undrinkable. My cousin, very tired, was lying in
the tent, which scarcely offered protection from the
wind, which set the fine sand in motion. I visited
the black tents, an event for the “harim,” the part
of the “bet” occupied by the women and children.
In order only to make closer acquaintance with the
stranger, sick children were brought him, until at
last they brought a perfectly healthy naked little
boy and a little girl. For nine shillings I procured
for my cousin, who had already in the wadi shown
signs of dysentery, a fine sheep, and earned as much
praise as if I had brought an ancient inscription.
While we were sitting in front of the tent, from
which Dschebel Hadid could be seen stretching
from east to west, a Beduin woman brought her
boy, laid him without any ado on my knees,
and said, “Effendi, heal him!” He had for
some days been suffering from vomiting, but
his temperature was normal. Our medicine chest
was helpful, and the child was made happy
with an empty shining tin. In the evening great

joy reigned among the Schuâbis, for the child's
vomiting ceased, and the Sheikh of the community,
Abu Rîch, accompanied by all his people, came to
thank us. He brought us two precious gifts: dry
wood and fresh goat's milk.
After a terrible night (for no one had thought of
the nearness of the salt lakes and their predatory
fauna, the mosquitoes, who tormented us cruelly),
about 3 a.m. a raging sandstorm arose, which lasted
for some hours, and made us take an early bath
in the well, about 5 feet deep and the same in
diameter, before our people were struck by a
similar idea. Then my cousin and I spent several
hours in reconnoitring the surrounding district.
News of our presence preceded us, for when we
were ready to set out about II o'clock, stranger
Beduins appeared with their sick, led by Sheikh
Abu Rîch, and among them the most remarkable
cases. A young woman showed her withered right
hand, just like that of a mummy, and it seemed that
if touched it would break off. My cousin put ointment
on the black, decayed remains, consoled the
poor incurable creature, and, as was his custom with
young people and children, he touched the half-veiled
brow and made the sign of the cross over it.
We were very sorry not to be physicians. We could
do nothing for the mother whose infant was suffering
from cataract.


At length, to the tune of gun salutes and with a
fresh north-west breeze, we left the camp, accompanied
by the Sheikh Abu Rîch, while the boys
rummaged in the sand for the wonderful things we
had left behind: empty tins and such-like, and even
cigarette ends. Abd el-Al went in advance in order
to carry our greeting to a few tents.
At length, on June 30th, we came upon an isolated
mountain (En Hêd), which Monsignor Kaufmann
took to be the Mons Pernudj of the Coptic sources;
a few hours before we had passed the Zauja of the
unfriendly Senussi monks, near the tents of the snake
“El-Hanesch,” and the first of the salt lakes, and
now the buildings of the “Compania,” i.e., the Salt
Company at Bir Hooker, became visible. It was
seven in the evening when we camped there on the
high borders of the desert. The Beduins omitted
the customary salutes. With the German flag we
hoisted the Egyptian flag we had brought with us,
a crescent moon and star on a red field, in order to
please the Mudir, M. Pensilum, to whom we had
cordial letters of introduction. We did not foresee
how soon the flags would be at half-mast. In the
evening I paid a visit to the Saline Company's
offices, which were close at hand. The Mudir was
the company's head and the chief official of the
Here I received sad news. M. Pensilum, an



official highly esteemed by the whole province, had
died on the previous day of dysentery, and his body
was already on the way to Alexandria. “I called
on Thy name in the wilderness, and Thou heardest
me not,” as the Arab lament runs.
The next day, accompanied only by our Sheikh,
Muftah Dabûn, while the rest remained behind to
look after the commissariat and water for the camels,
we began with a visit to Dêr Baramûs, the largest
and most important of the Natrûn monasteries.
We passed the extensive modern buildings of the
saline factory, and then the route led directly over the
railway embankment of the little branch line, built of
the hard salt crust and made firm with sacks of sand.
The dazzling surface shone like fine ice-crystals;
blood-red pools of water contrasted curiously with
the enormously tall sword-grass that flanked the
banks. Passing the low barracks occupied by
the Beduins engaged in the saline works and the
beginnings of a mosque, the foundation-stone of
which had been laid by the Khedive with great
ceremony five years before, the building having
since advanced no further, after a short ride we
again reached the desert.
The breadth of the Natrûn valley at that point is
a little over a thousand yards. The long and highly
interesting valley, with its ten salt lakes, of which,
not withstanding the midsummer heat, few were dry,

has a population of five hundred—mostly Arabs and
Beduins, and only twelve Europeans. Besides the
name of the Salt valley, it is also known as Mizân
el-Colûb—i.e., “Balance of the Heart”—or as Wadi
Djeffer, because the camels are taken there to be
cured of the djeffer disease, or as the plain of
Schiît, Askit, etc. The part of the great Libyan
Desert closely bordering on it bears the name of
the Nitrian Desert.
After a ride of about three hours we reached
Dêr Baramûs. Already in the distance we had
seen the massive walls of the monks' citadel rising
from the sand. A few hundred yards in front of
the monastery we made a brief halt in order to
load our guns, a proceeding which was to result
in a curious misunderstanding. The guards of the
monastery had long spied us through a loophole
in the battlements, and the proceedings with the
guns aroused suspicion. When about 12 o'clock
the bell of the little iron gate built deep into the
massive wall sounded, we heard much talking in
Arabic behind it. I handed in our cards through
a slit, and asked in Arabic that they should be
given to the Hegoumenos. “Who are you?” was
the demand, while a monk was sent for who spoke
a little English. “A priest and a schoolmaster,
who have come from far-off Germany, desire to
pay their respects to your head and to see the

famous monastery.” “No stranger ever comes to
us in summer,” replied another, immediately adding,
“You have an Arab with you. What does he
want?” After receiving a satisfactory reply, they
agreed to tell their head of our arrival. Meanwhile,
high above us in the wall, a sliding shutter
fell down, and the English-speaking personage—
as we learned later, a novice who had attended
the English school in Cairo—made further inquiries.
He brought forward two arguments against
admitting us: first, the business with the loading
of the guns, and, second, the unusual season of
the year. At last we obtained the head's permission.
The heavy gate swung open. We were
received with scrutinizing looks from bearded faces
and the usual Arab forms of greeting and blessing,
which were punctuated with our apologies
and many inquisitive questions. We surrendered
our weapons to one of the monks, and followed
him to the Mandârah (the reception-room) which
was reached through a luxuriant palm garden.
Notwithstanding the preliminaries dictated by prudence,
and influenced by the fact that a few weeks
before an Arab had shot at a monk, I must confess
that the kind and friendly treatment we experienced
in Dêr Baramûs made entire amends. I
had imagined to myself that the monasteries of the
monophysitic Copts were worse. Still, Dêr Baramûs

is an exception. Of the thirty monks who
inhabit the little town formed by a chaos of houses,
cells, chapels, and corridors, some at least understand
a little of another tongue besides Arabic; the
chief priest or abbot, Abma Gabriel, knows Coptic
pretty well, and was not a little proud when his
knowledge of Greek and Coptic manuscripts was
proved to the monks. Coptic is the liturgical
language of the Copts, but even the priests only
understand it with the help of the Arabic translation
written by its side. The ordinary speech
of the monks throughout Wadi Natrûn and in
other places has for centuries been Arabic. We
were shown to seats of honour in the reception-room,
and crouching down on them in Arabic
fashion, we drank the customary sugar and water and
the indispensable coffee, and exchanged greetings
with Abma Gabriel, the young head of the monks'
colony. I will pass over in silence the dinner that
he provided for us, that comprised all the luxuries
and the tastiest dishes of Arab cookery, and was
eaten in Arab fashion—with the fingers instead of
with knives and forks. The Abbot joined us, in
spite of the fact that it was a fast day, and zealous
novices waited at table and kept off the flies with
flabella. As a general rule, the monks' food consists
of bread, dates, onions, and lentils, the same
as that of the Beduins. What the gardens do not

supply is from time to time procured from the
villages of the Nile valley.
During our survey of the monastery, which took
four hours, Abma Gabriel's kindness showed itself
in a special manner. The German priest and his
companion were allowed to see things usually closed
to travellers. The monks repeatedly said, “We
Copts are as close to you in respect to liturgy and
church customs as in origin.” To the question why
they did not, like so many of their brethren of the
last decades, join Rome, they replied, “What would
become of our possessions and of our father in
Alexandria?” By the last they meant the Patriarch,
who bears the title “the holy Pope and
Patriarch of the town of Alexandria and all the
countries of Egypt, of Jerusalem, Nubia, Abyssinia,
Pentapolis, and all the lands in which St. Mark
preached.” He is mostly chosen from one of the
Nitrian monasteries, and comes to the helm perhaps
as a saint, but in entire ignorance of his duties.
Untiringly the novices dragged our utensils and
photographic apparatus about. The remains of a
once valuable library were accessible to us, and
towards evening a bath was prepared for us, which,
however, we refused, when we saw that it was the
font that was brought into use. The monks declare
that El-Baramûs is the wealthiest of the four Coptic
monasteries of the Nitrian Desert which alone survive

out of a great number. The history of its
origin in wrapped in mystery and legend. The
monks derive the name from Abu Musa. Abu
Musa, the negro, was a bold robber, a Berber
by descent, who, after the murder of a hundred
men, became a Christian, and as a monk wrote
a number of books. He belonged to those who
kept the forty days' fast without taking any food.
Others derive the name of this monkish stronghold
from Ba, or Pa, Romeôs, and designate it as a
monastery “of the Romans,” of the saints Maximus
and Dometius.
The three-storied outer wall, supported by
lofty interior pillars, is 170 paces long, and
almost as broad. An observation gallery with
spy-holes runs below the battlements; at certain
spots steps lead to a special parapet. Thence
by devious ways, up staircases and over a
drawbridge, we visited the Kasr, a strong tower
with many chambers and dungeons. It shelters
among others a chapel dedicated to the Archangel
Michael. In the course of our visits we
discovered that the other Nitrian monasteries
liked to place chapels to Michael in lofty parts
of the buildings. Very little remained of the mass
of fragments of manuscripts which J. Butler saw
in one of the adjoining chambers; what there
was were mostly fragments of valueless late Coptic

and Arabic works. The monks brought us here
a green glazed terra-cotta standard lamp, the
antiquity and value of which they greatly cried
up, as if we had been thinking of making a
purchase. In a third underground chamber a
hard fruit, something like peas, was stored, to
serve as rations in cases of dire necessity, such
as famine and danger.
From the parapet of the mighty tower the
eye roves over the endless sea of the desert.
How often had we been at close quarters with
its great beauties as with its many dangers, and
yet it always offered fresh enigmas! We had
traversed it in cool nights under a full moon,
amid the hoarse cries of hungry wolves and
cowardly hyenas and jackals; under a tropical
heat, bathed in blinding sunlight, men and beasts
dragged themselves wearily over the never-ending
plain in order to reach the next well. We
were as well acquainted with the mysterious
waves of the simoom as with the cool ripples
of the deceptive oasis lakes surrounded with
vegetation. And its history, the thousands and
thousands of years' history of the desert, spoke
its language to us from the wild cleft wadis of
Somara, with their curious hilltops and petrified
forests of giant trees, to the bleached bones of its
noblest beast, which only too often pointed the

road by which our latest predecessors had gone.
And just here on the roofs of El-Baramûs did
not a little piece of the history of the earth and
of humanity pass before us when we looked
down over the sandy plain? There below, in
the direction of the wadi, in prehistoric times
flowed an important arm of the Nile; yonder
were the prehistoric caravan routes, later the
pilgrim routes of the mighty Pharaonic people.
Yonder for the first time appeared the strange
ascetics, wrapped in the pallium of the poor
and wise, who, a race of virtuous, self-denying
Christians, built the walls on the battlements of
which we were standing. But the desert had
conquered those rulers too, just as it did not
permit even the mightiest potentate of the modern
age, the bold corsair who fought a battle in
Wadi Natrûn, to tarry there. The desert is an
image of eternity, and as such never changes for
the philosopher.
The kindly monks aided our imagination by
attentively pointing out hidden charms, and
enriched our experience by relating strange
stories. “Our earth is hard,” said the good
Hegoumenos, but the expression of his face was
kind and gentle. The sun had deprived the
man of all desire to philosophize. He was never
tired of communicating the impressions which


the painful longing to return to his family
produced in him. And Dêr Baramûs concealed
a still stranger man, a solitary among the sociable
persons of this community cut off from the world.
A quietist in the stillness! A sage amid the
unrest of the desert! A talented saint in the
company of careless, thoughtless monks! An
aspiring character and yet without ambition, a
personality, a recluse, a noble man! Before the
priests and brothers took us to the top of the
Kasr we had been in the principal church.
The Hegoumenos was not there. A bold novice,
the same who managed to articulate a little English,
gave the necessary information. We were waiting
for the high priest in the transept, opposite the
Haikal.1 He entered clad in a fresh garment.
“The Bishop is coming—he wishes to see you,” he
exclaimed in an impressive way. Meanwhile the
monks assembled; a semicircle was formed, and
the Hegoumenos with the strangers stepped
forward. A deep silence. All eyes were turned
to the door, on the threshold of which an
impressive figure appeared. Clad in a brown,
fluttering cloak, a black turban on his head, the
Bishop seemed to incorporate one of the earnest,
fascinating figures of the early Christians whom
the African sun endowed with nobility, gentleness,
1 The place of the high altar.

and energy and an unselfish love of humanity.
A painter would have found in him an ideal model
for his Christ. When he had withdrawn, the
monks loaded him with praise. We learned from
them that Amba John, a scion of a noble
Alexandrian family, had been for many years
Bishop in Abyssinia, and was here engaged in
hagiological and ascetic studies. Perhaps we may
see in him the future Patriarch of the Coptic Church.
The principal church, dedicated to El-Hadra,
consists of nave and aisles, which in the Haikal
become three altar apses. The usual folding doors
divide those from the church itself, in which close
to the entrance to the sanctuary stands the reliquary
with the bodies of the saints Maximus and dometius.
The two Romans, as these saints were called, were
sons of the Greek Emperor Leontius. The story
is well known how Maximus, who led a very holy
life, was elected Pope of Rome, renounced the
honour, and with his brother Dometius went to
sea, and later dedicated themselves to a monkish
life in the Libyan Desert. The Coptic Synaxar1
relates their arrival, life, and death in Wadi
Natrûn under the 17th Tubeh thus: “They came
here to St. Macarius and told him they wished
to dwell with him. As he saw that they were
of noble descent, he thought that they would
1 See p. 93.

not be able to endure the sojourn in the desert,
and described to them the hard life led there.
But they replied: 'If we cannot remain with you,
we will wend our way elsewhere.' Then he
instructed them in the ways of the sand-hills,
showed them a valley, and gave them directions
how to build themselves a grotto, and showed
them from whom to procure their bread and
to whom to sell their work. They spent there
three years without consorting with any one;
they went to church in order to celebrate the
Eucharist, but observed perfect silence the whole
time. Father Abu Makar wondered that they
kept aloof from him all this while, and he wished
that the Lord would explain their action. He
arose and went to them, and remained with them
overnight. When he awoke at midnight, he saw
how the two saints got up in order to pray. It
was as if a fiery rope reached from their mouths to
Heaven; devils surrounded them like greedy wolves,
but the Angel of the Lord drove them off with a
fiery sword. As soon as day dawned he clothed
them in the holy garment and bade them farewell,
asking that they would pray for him. They made
him a reverent bow, but spake never a word.
When they had ended their course, and the Lord
desired that they should cast off the cares of this
world and enter into eternal rest, the elder fell sick.

He sent to Abu Makar and asked him to come to
him. When he came he found him in a fever;
he comforted him and calmed his heart. Then
Father Abu Makar saw that the troop of saints,
prophets, and apostles, St. John the Baptist and
the Emperor Constantine, had come down and
surrounded the saint until his soul departed with
fame and honour. Then St. Abu Makar wept and
said: 'Blessed be thou, O Maximus!” Dometius
did not cease to weep for his brother, and asked
St. Abu Makar to beg Christ to unite him with
Maximus, and three days after St. Maximus's
death Dometius fell sick. St. Abu Makar was
informed, and while he was on the way to him,
he saw the troop of saints who had appeared
to fetch the soul of his brother Maximus: they
had now taken the soul of Dometius to themselves,
and with songs of praise were ascending
with it to Heaven. When he came to the
grotto he found that Dometius was dead, and
he buried him beside his brother. Maximus
died on the i4th Tubeh, and Dometius on
the 17th, and St. Abu Makar ordered the
monastery to be called by their name, and
so is it named to-day, and their memory endures
for ever in Heaven and on the whole earth.”
So far the narration of the Synaxar.
Various pictures in tempera are to be seen above

and on the shrine of the saints. At the side is the
entrance to the Haikal and a reading-desk. The
square high altar in the large apse of the Holy
of holies was uncovered, and the monks showed
the so-called sacred wood, a right-angular wooden
panel with crosses and inscriptions, set deeply in
the mensa, and lent by the Patriarchs of Alexandria,
corresponding to the cavity for the reception of
relics of our altars. There was a cupola over
each of the three apses. In different parts of
the sanctuary we came upon fragments from
Roman times, such as capitals of pillars and
lintels of doors. The above-mentioned font was
in the narthex. Abma Gabriel showed as a curiosity,
in a cellar belonging to the church, the
large wine amphora which contained the sacramental
wine pressed out by the hands of the
monks. A valuable treasure of the monastery
was an amphora containing a wine that was fifty
years old, some of which was offered us to taste.
It reminded us of very old Malaga. In the same
room was kept the holy chrism, concealed in a
niche in the wall. Then we visited the highly
characteristic refectory of the monastery, the bake-house
for the sacramental and other bread, and the
smaller chapels of Mar Girgis and El Emir Tadrus.
There were interesting scenes when in the shade
of the palm-grove we photographed groups of the

inhabitants of the monastery. The unrest and
vanity of the younger men, combined with the
extreme seriousness and care-laden aspect of the
elder, lent the photographs an atmosphere of
mingled joy and sadness. We were invited to
photograph the hen-house of the monastery, and
great astonishment was expressed when we found
the subject, of great interest naturally to the
inhabitants and a great rarity in the desert,
unworthy of our camera. When our Sheikh
urged our return, and we refused the invitation
to stay the night on account of the exposed situation
of our camp, the whole troop accompanied
us outside the gate, calling down blessings on
our heads. The night was far advanced when
we reached the camp.
A few hours south-east of Baramûs, and nearer
one of the salt lakes, the saline Rasunia, is the
Maria Monastery, Dêr es-Surjâni, universally
known through the finding of valuable Syrian
and Abyssinian manuscripts. In 1842 Lord Curzon
obtained about a thousand manuscripts for the
British Museum, while already in 1715 Assemani,
the distinguished keeper of the Vatican
Library, succeeded in buying manuscripts and apographs
in the various monasteries. Unfortunately
the monks realized too late the immense
loss which they owed to Lord Curzon and to

Henry Tattam, the English Coptic scholar. Later,
the Coptic Patriarchate forbade the sale of manuscripts
under strict penalty, and had the valuable
codices brought to Cairo. The name of the
monastery reminds us of the Syrian colony of
monks that settled here, the most flourishing
time of which was in the period of reforming
activity of Moses of Nisibis, in the first half of
the tenth century. There in the middle of the
wall grows the tree of St. Ephraim, a magnificent
tamarind with a trunk over 3 feet in thickness,
which grew from a staff that the great Syrian
Father of the Church (d. 379) placed at the
portal by mistake. The monks say their evening
prayer at the foot of that tree.
The four Nitrian monasteries are very poor in
artistic objects, but some remains in the Syrian
Maria Monastery are of much interest to the
student. Its old El-Hadra church is a basilica
90 feet long by 40 broad, with three aisles and
cupolas. It was, perhaps, originally cruciform.
The choir and sanctuary are divided from the
rest of the church by a thick wall with a folding
door. In the nave is a square basin of marble
for the washing of feet. As in Dêr Baramûs,
two bronze hoops hang from the ceiling by chains.
They were the ancient chandeliers, of which,
according to Kaufmann's “Archaeology,” two types

have been preserved on Coptic ground, one with
a deep rim and outstretching arms which held
the glass oil-lamps, and a flat type with pierced
rims and holes inset for the glass bowls. It seems
they used similar chandeliers in the ancient basilica
of St. Peter at Rome.
The tarsia work of the doors1 which divide
on one side the nave and choir, and on the
other the choir and Haikal of the El - Hadra
church, are of special interest. The first is in
four parts, with six panels, of which the top
rows represent Christ and Mary and St. Peter
and St. Mark. The names are written in Greek,
often with the Coptic article. The portrait of
Christ reminded us of early Christian models
from the fifth to the eighth century. The Lord
appears in the nimbus of the cross, with spear
over the serpent and the lion, according to the
words of Scripture: “Super aspidens et basiliscum
ambulabis et conculcabis leonem et draconem.”
A Syrian inscription on the lintel relates how
Moses of Nisibis, in the year 1238 of the Seleucides
period (926—27 A.D.), had the work of art
executed. It runs: “To the honour and glory of
1 The losses which the Nitrian monasteries have suffered
through the thefts of foreigners can never be restored, and also
from destruction by ignorant monks, who permitted pieces of
the tarsia work to be broken off the doors and carried away as


the Holy Trinity this door was fashioned in the
year (thousand) and 238 in the days of the blessed
patriarchs Mâr Kosmas and Mâr Baseleios by the
care and means of Moses of the town of Nisibis,
president of the monastery, that God, in whose
holy name he made it, may reward every one
who has taken part in its pious prayer.” The
folding-door between the transept and the Haikal
is in six divisions, and in six rows shows in seven
panels crosses and ornaments; in the top rows
are saints with the names inscribed in Greek;
the front view gives Dioskoros (Patriarch 443—58),
Mark, Emmanuel, Maria, Ignatius, Severus
(512—18). The Syrian inscription, carved in
rough letters deep in the lintel of the door, runs:
“To the honour, glory, fame, and exaltation of
the Holy Trinity, to whom all adoration is due,
this altar of the Virgin Mother's church was erected
by Moses… the president of the monastery in
the days of the patriarchs Mâr Gabriel and Mâr
Joannes in the year 1225 of the Greeks (913-14 A.D.)
on the 5th of the month May, so that
it be in beauty a sign for every believer who
has an interest in this altar and holy convent,
for the saving of their life and preservation, for
the pardoning of their dead and the forgiveness
of their sins.” Professor Joseph Strzygovski, one
of the members of the Committee for the Coptic

and Arabic Monuments of Egypt, first drew
attention to these important inscriptions, and also
to the value of the ornaments of the Haikal.
The paintings on a dark blue ground in the apses
of the strikingly lofty Haikal and the aisles form
a unique decoration. They represent scenes from
the life of the Virgin: the Annunciation and Nativity,
the Ascension and Death seem to belong to the post-Arabic
period. Other older paintings may be
recognized under them on the same subjects.
Perhaps Abbot Moses of Nisibis commissioned
the paintings as well as the tarsia, since the inscriptions
indicate him as their composer.
For the rest, the plan of the Haikal, the altars,
and the exterior appearance of the monastery, are
similar to Dêr Baramûs. Dêr es-Surjâni possesses
a second characteristic El-Hadra church. It is very
much smaller, is almost square, and has no aisles.
It contains nothing of special interest except some
low-relief marbles, a reliquary, and a desk with
ivory legs, unfortunately very much worn. The
remains of paintings in the refectory deserve no
particular attention. There is a fine view of the
Nitrian valley and over the desert from the tower
of the monastery, in which are a chapel dedicated
to St. Michael and the once famous library.
In the environs of Dêr es-Surjâni there were a
number of other monasteries which have now disappeared,

or are only to be recognized in scanty
ruins, like the Convent of the Armenians and the
Elias Monastery of the Abyssinians. The last
settled later in the “Monastery of the Virgin” of
Bu Johannes, near which Amba Nub was situated,
and Dêr Amba Bischâi, the third of those still
existing. As we learn from the “vita” of
Macarius, men came not only from Egypt in order
to be monks and saints here, but from “Spain,
Libya, Pentapolis, Cappadocia, Byzantium, Italy,
Macedonia, Asia, Syria, Palestine, and Galatia.”
A late Coptic manuscript in the library of the
Earl of Crawford mentions six flourishing Nitrian
monasteries; besides those still existing, the Convents
of Moses and John the Negro. Abu Musa,
from whom, as we said above, Baramûs derives its
name, appears like John to have been an Ethiopian
or Abyssinian, and to owe his surname to his
Amba Bischâi, in the immediate neighbourhood
of Dêr es-Surjâni, boasts of possessing the best
water of any of the Nitrian monasteries. It is
also by far the largest, having an area of more
than 150 square yards. The pump which brings
forth the precious liquid is in the third of the courtyards,
and furnishes enough water for a tropical
garden with many culinary vegetables, of which
the monks are very proud. Whoever has had

personal experience of the disagreeable water conditions
of the Natrûn valley knows how to value
such a well.
Notwithstanding this favourable condition, Amba
Bischâi in comparison with the Macarius Monastery
seems to me to be most behindhand. It
is astonishing how Coptic monasteries, the inmates
of which enjoy freedom from taxation and
from military service, even in the Nile valley
itself, slowly sink into the quagmire of their own
stagnation. Besides the Nitrian convents, few
have any importance; we may mention those of
St. Antony and St. Paul in the desert of Petraea,
and the wealthy Muharak in Central Egypt—the
last with about one hundred monks. The big
fortress-like monasteries at Sohâg, the celebrated
“white” and “red” convents which are connected
under the name of Schenûte, shelter families instead
of monks. So that the observance to-day is
extremely lax. A set of the rules of the Order of
St. Antony printed in Arabic at Cairo in 1899
appears to have had no influence.
The buildings of Amba Bischâi underwent so
much restoration at the beginning of last century
that it is less easy than in the others to trace out
the old kernel. There is scarcely anything left of
the old library. It was in the Kasr, and was rich
in illuminated books. What remains is mostly confined

to liturgical works and copies of the transmitted
sacred books. They usually have a note
at the end, and with full right, “ad mentem” of
certain robbers of the monastery. We read at
the end of a Synaxar, i.e., a collection of lives of
the saints as they were read aloud for the edification
of the monks, the threat: “This book is an
eternal inheritance for everlasting preservation in
the church of the great and perfect St. Amba
Bischâi in his monastery, which is situated in the
desert Schihat, in el-Asket in Wadi Habib, 'the
balance of the heart.' No one has the right to
remove the same from the inheritance of the said
monastery out of any frivolous ground, and any one
who acts contrary to this and does remove it shares
the lot and fate of Diocletian the unbeliever, Herod
the apostate, Simeon the magician, and Judas the
traitor; on the obedient to the contrary will there
fall for ever and aye the blessing and reward of
God! Amen! Amen! Amen!”
The mother church of the monastery, dedicated
to the titular saint, the disciple of Abba Amoi, is an
Oriental domed basilica with all the peculiarities of
Coptic planning. The roof and aisles are domed;
six further spaces have cupolas, a bay in front in
particularly delicate brickwork. The windows of
the aisles are now walled up. We find here, too,
the curious separation of the nave and transept

usually called choir, by massive walls and doors
which again show carved work. The usual ostrich
eggs hang from the ceiling of the choir, and a
pretty bronze corona. In front is a door leading
into the Virgin's chapel; it contains a reliquary
with the bones of the titular saint. The south
chapel, dedicated to Abu Iskarun, has a splendid
cupola. In the Haikal the tribune deserves attention.
The throne which formerly stood in the
centre of the back wall is no longer there. Six
steps incrusted with marble, the lowest of which
goes the whole width of the Haikal, the three upper
ones being semicircular, lead to the throne niche, in
which remains of delicate opus Alexandrinum are
to be seen. Little is left of the paintings which
formerly adorned the various parts, especially the
Holy of holies. The decoration of the dome of
the Haikal is specially worthy of notice, where
pretty arabesques in concentric frames run round
the central cross, and also the fragment of a picture
of St. George in the transept.
The desert provided the most important of the
building materials for the church, as for all the
sanctuaries in the wadi. It is the light-coloured,
easily manipulated limestone. Only where bricks
were absolutely necessary, as for the domes and
other vaulting, was the aid of heavy transports from
the Nile valley called in.


We were struck at Amba Bischâi by the little
care bestowed on the equipment for divine service.
The holy vessels were poor and mean; the liturgy
has sunk to a purely ceremonial service without
any real comprehension of the proceedings. Everything
is concentrated round the Kummus, the
priest who prays to God, and who, according to
the views of many of the monks, possesses a
mysterious power of magic. Cleanliness is sought
in vain in the monastic churches of Wadi Natrûn,
but, notwithstanding, the visitor finds much to
attract him.
He feels himself in closer contact with a past age
than anywhere else. The monks in their citadels
and dungeons, their fear both of civilization and of
the Arabs, their method of managing the monastery,
and their liturgy, are exactly the same as they were
five hundred years ago. The historian finds here
abundant sources. We were pleased to find, outwardly
at least, adherence to the old faith, for the
sake of which hard fights had been fought by the
monks of the wadi. With the exception of the heresy
of Monophysitism and the papal prerogative of the
Patriarch of Alexandria, the ancient Catholic doctrine
is still living there. The seven sacraments
are firmly adhered to, especially the personal
presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Baptism
precedes circumcision, but not on religious grounds.

Anointment was used not only for diseases of the
body, but also for those of the soul and disposition.
The strict celibacy of the monks, and the special
reverence paid to the priestly calling, contrasted
with easy divorce. The four great fasts were very
strictly kept. Worship of the Madonna, saints and
images, and prayers for the dead find acceptance
with the Copts.
But what lends the Coptic service, for all its stiff
formalism, its intrinsic character, and what for
thoughtful persons who assist at it reveals the
kernel within the hard shell and charms them with
a piece of primitive Christianity, is its wealth of
primitive prayers and ceremonies. While our own
liturgy is connected with Gregory the Great, the
Copts use two—the liturgy of St. Basil and St.
Cyril; the first on ordinary fast and holy days, the
Gregorian on the high festivals, that of Cyril in
Lent and on the December fasts. The “praeparatio
altaris” is common to all liturgies at the
sacrifice of the Mass up to what Roman Catholics
call the “prefatio.” The second part of the Coptic
Mass, the anaphora with prefatio, sanctus, consecration,
fractio and communion, is common in the
main, but different in the wording.
The monks of Amba Bischâi, and also those of
the other monasteries, have their own traditions
about the “waterless river,” the Bacher bela ma.

Hermits had settled near the hill of the “eagle's
stone” on the bank of the stream; they were constantly
attacked by river pirates until, through the
hermits' prayers, the water sank and then vanished
for ever. A monk learned in the Bible pointed out
a passage in the nineteenth chapter of Isaiah, in
which he declared the “spirit of Egypt” to be
identical with the fructifying Nile. “And the
spirit of Egypt shall be made void in the midst
of it; and I will destroy the counsel thereof: and
they shall seek unto the idols and to the charmers,
and to them that have familiar spirits and to the
wizards.… And the waters shall fail from the
sea, and the river shall be wasted and become dry.
And the rivers shall stink; the streams of Egypt
shall be minished and dried up: the reeds and flags
shall wither away. The meadows by the Nile, by
the brink of the Nile, and all that is sown by the
Nile, shall become dry, be driven away, and be
no more.”
On the return from Amba Bischâi we passed the
saline works, where the extraction of salt was
being carried on. Many salt mounds of two to
three cubic yards were thrown up, and the
pyramids of fresh crystallized salt looked of a
blood-red colour. On account of the intense heat
the men could only work from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m.,
and so the nights when the moon was full were

extensively used as the time for extraction. There
was a peculiar charm in looking at the black figures
hard at work. At the edge of the salt lake was a
railway carriage, which the Mudir's representative
put at our disposal, ready for the return journey.
We went at a very slow pace over the black natrûn
earth, through grass and reeds as tall as a man.
We stopped at one place in order to see a waterhole
in which, only a few yards distant from the
saline works, fresh water had collected, that was
high or low according to the state of the Nile. In
boring in that region fresh water was always come
upon first, and deep below it salt water. We soon
reached the factory again, where the “capo” of
the six soldiers at the disposal of the Mudir once
more saluted us. The “capo” is at the same
time Mayor of Bir Hooker.
The salt works, with its chimney more than 170
feet high, a signal-post for the whole of the salt-lake
region, were established in 1890 by an Englishman
named Hooker, after whom the well, Bir Hooker,
and the little colony of officials and workmen are
called. He leased the salt privilege from the
Khedivial Government. In 1896 the management
passed into Swiss hands, and four years later an
English joint-stock company took up the business,
and it now provides salt for the whole of Egypt.
The work of extraction goes on from June to

August, and yields 60,000 tons of the best salt,
which forms a thick crust similar to ice on the lake,
and has to be taken off. The transport is effected
by means of three small lines of railway and a
larger express line, 45 miles in length. The
factory produces every day 30 tons of soda, 200
tons of packed-up salt, and from 3,000 to 4,000
packets of table-salt, the last packed by eight
Beduin boys. Both dark and light nitre and
gypsum are also produced. Statistics show that
in spite of machinery and the railway there is no
essential increase in the amount of production. In
the time of Wanslebius, as in the middle of the
seventeenth century, the “saltpetre lakes” produced
annually about 90,000 cwt. of salt, valued
at £2,400. It was the one important source of
revenue for the nobles, and was carried on camel-back
to Terraneh, to be thence dispatched to
Cairo. Among the possessions of the modern
factory, in which machinery of German origin is
used, is a carriage of historical interest. It is
the same that was used by the Empress Eugénie
amid Oriental pomp at the opening of the Suez
Canal. Hooker had bought the carriage from the
Khedivial stables in order to have some means of
transporting distinguished visitors to the wadi, and
many a pasha had occupied it. With the advent
of the railway and under the Swiss administration

the carriage served as an ambulance-wagon, and
to-day it is exhibited as a valuable curiosity.
We started in the light of the red dawn for the
desert monastery of Macarius. The camels went
forward with slow and hesitating steps, and it
required many an exclamation of “zap, zap,”
breathed rather than spoken by the Sheikh, to urge
them on. Bir Hooker lay far behind us when we
rode along the slopes of the range of hills situated
to the south of the wadi. Down in the valley,
some 80 yards below the desert, a curious
vehicle was seen moving at the edge of the saline
lakes—a railway locomotive drawn by two buffaloes.
Want of coal or ignorance of the mechanism of
steam engines often caused such a curious combination.
Our clothes were too much saturated with
the night dew, which even penetrated the tent
cloth, for us thoroughly to enjoy the comic episode.
The discomfort was most trying, and only vanished
when, about 7 a.m., the sun began to have great
force, and soon after a gazelle was seen passing in
the distance at the edge of the Dschebel. The
sight caused us to change the day's programme, for
we had not eaten fresh meat for a long time, and so
our stomachs gave the casting vote, since even at
Bir Hooker and its neighbourhood neither sheep
nor fowls were to be bought for their weight in
gold. The herds all pastured a day's journey away,

and midsummer was an unfavourable time. The
gazelle, which turned out later to be a fine buck,
must not escape us. We dismounted and, covered
by the camels, carefully followed the Sheikh till
close to the edge of a depression. The clever
animals were not alarmed by the sight of camels,
while the sight of a man, even at a distance, made
them gallop; it was customary to creep up to them
in this manner, especially when the wind was
favourable. So we were able to view the creature
at close quarters. It was surprised in the depression,
into which it had descended after watching our
camels for a long time. An imprudent movement
on our part unfortunately caused Muftah not to
shoot at the right moment, and the slender animal
fled at the noise farther into the hilly ground.
Then we divided ourselves. The Sheikh was to
try to secure the valuable meat, and we slowly
descended the Macarius Desert in a southerly direction.
After several hours two shots were heard;
it was quite noon before the Sheikh reached us.
He had only shot at the gazelle, and it was not till
the next day that he succeeded in killing it, a
welcome booty, in spite of the thirty years testified
to by the antlers.
At last, very late, we reached our goal in the
barren desert, the monastery of Macarius, the
whitewashed walls of which were scarcely to be

distinguished from the desert itself. The aneroid
thermometer could go no higher, and the pocket
thermometer showed close on 140° Fahr. We
had only experienced greater heat in the south of
Moghara. Exhausted, we got off our camels in
order to seek shelter from the burning sun in the
shade of the monastery gate. We were so tired
and weary that it was only after a long pause that
it occurred to us to pull the bell and announce the
arrival of the strangers. The reception was less
ceremonious than in other monasteries; the monks
seemed to have no suspicion, although we carried
arms. As we discovered later, their whole mind and
thought were centred on receiving the customary
presents. Dr. Junker, in the description of his
journey through Wadi Djeffer, censured the want
of tact of these monks. How courteous and well
bred in contrast was the conduct of the inhabitants
of Baramûs! The five-and-twenty monks of Dêr
Macarius paid scant honour to the great saint
whose name the monastery bore. They seemed to
foster vices and iniquities which St. Macarius
strove to overcome and to stamp out. Yet it
should not be forgotten that the inhabitants of
individual monasteries change from time to time.
The story of the first founding of the settlement
is told by the monks as follows:—
Born in the year 300, in Upper Egypt, the great

saint early withdrew from the world. Repentance
for a past cowardly theft determined him to lead
a godly life in strict asceticism, with continuous
prayer, in a solitary place. His conduct attracted
the attention of the people living near him. He
was accused of hypocrisy and dissimulation, and
was feared as a wolf in sheep's clothing. A
maiden seduced him, but later, under terrible
torture of body and of conscience, she confessed
the saint's innocence. Then the eyes of the people
were opened. They admired the will-power and
self-sacrificing spirit of Macarius, who bestowed a
part of his gains on the unfortunate woman. In
order to escape the honours men paid him, he fled
away and hastened into the Nitrian Desert, where
he spent the last sixty years of his life. The
reputation of his virtues attracted many disciples
to him there, who carried his worship into all the
provinces of Egypt. To them he recommended
silence, prayer, devotion, humility, and mortification.
Four churches were founded in the hermit
colony under his leadership. His disciples could
not say enough of his gentleness and patience.
They also attributed to the saint the gifts of
prophecy and miracle-working.
St. Macarius was repeatedly forced to combat
the heresies which unbelievers came to the hermits
to spread. Hieracites and Arians saw in him a

skilful advocate of the doctrine of the holy fathers
of Nicaea. The monks show the place of his first
settlement in the wadi, near the Baramûs monastery;
while here, where he was buried, a sanctuary
arose with monks' dwellings. Dêr Macarius in its
present form, with numerous ruins of other monasteries
in close proximity, is the most exposed
monks' settlement in the Nitrian Desert. I might
also describe it as the poorest, but I gravely doubt
if the monks are conscious of their poverty. The
whole place bears signs of terrible decay. The
garden brings a bit of tropical landscape into the
desert. Only the most necessary care is given it,
however, chiefly in regard to the vegetables. A
view of it from the windows of the Mandârah was
extremely picturesque. The architecture of the
monastery is of different periods. The gloomy
principal church, with the exception of the decoration
of the Haikal and the before-mentioned
reliquary with the bodies of three St. Macariuses,
possessed nothing that we had not seen in finer
and better condition in other monasteries. Whole
panels of the carved wood doors are broken away.
The names of foreign visitors adorn the nave, and,
indeed, the monks themselves ask their guests to
eternize themselves in that way. A very beautiful
fragment of sculpture hidden in the sand appears to
be part of an altar cabinet or an early Christian


ambos. A two-storied campanile stood out in
dazzling white against the warm green of the
The “Church of the Sheikhs”—esch-schiûch, i.e.,
of the saints—lies over against the tower, and is
another sanctuary, so-called from the martyrs buried
there. The choir is enclosed by three pillars connected
by wooden cabinets, and is worthy of
mention. An inaccessible subterranean room is
designated as the grave of the martyred monks.
The story of the forty-nine “sheikhs,” as told in the
sacred books of the Copts, is sufficiently remarkable
to be related here as a further example of monastic
tradition resting on a historical basis. The cause of
their martyrdom was that Theodosius, son of the
Emperor Arcadius, in whose time this happened,
had no son. He therefore sent messengers to the
elders of “Schihat” (i.e., the Nitrian Desert), asking
them to pray to God that He would send him a son.
Among the elders was one named Isidore, who wrote
to the Emperor and informed him: “God does not
desire offspring from you, so that after your death
the heretics may not enter into a league with him.”
When the Emperor received this communication
he thanked God and was silent. Meanwhile some
ill-natured persons, among them his sister Pulcheria,
advised him to marry another wife in order
to have a son by her who should inherit the

Empire. He replied to them: “I shall do nothing
against the will of the elders in the Egyptian
Desert, because their reputation has spread over
the greatest part of the world.” He then sent an
ambassador to obtain permission from the elders.
The ambassador had a son, who asked his father's
permission to accompany him, and he took him
with him in order to receive the blessing of the
elders. When they came to the elders and had
read out to them the Emperor's letter (Amba
Isidore had meanwhile gone to his last rest), they
took the ambassador and led him to the body of
the saint, and said to him: “This letter has come
from the Emperor, and we do not know what to
reply.” Then the old man stood up and said: “Did
I not tell you and the Emperor that God will not
give him a son, who would pollute himself by false
doctrines; if he married ten women he would not
beget a son.” And then the old man lay down
again. The monks now drew up an answer in
writing for the ambassador, and as soon as he
had departed the Beduins came. A very old
man named Amba Jonas arose and said to the
brethren: “Behold, there come the Beduins; their
sole purpose is to kill us. Who desires martyrdom,
remain with me; who is afraid, go up into
the tower.” Some of them took to flight, but
forty-eight remained with the old man, and the

Beduins came and slaughtered them. The son
of the ambassador, who was already on his way,
turned round and saw the angels, how they set
crowns on the heads of the old men who had
died as martyrs. The name of the youth was
Dionysius. Then he said to his father: “Yonder
I see a troop of spirits, who set crowns on the
heads of the old men; now will I go in order to
gain a crown like theirs.” And his father answered:
“I will go with you, my dear son.” They
turned round, and placed themselves in the way
of the Beduins, were killed by them, and gained
martyrdom. After the Beduins had withdrawn,
the monks came down from the tower, carried off
the corpses, and put them in a cave. They
prayed before them, sang psalms every night,
and implored their blessing. Then people came
from El-Bathanum, and stole the body of Amba
Jonas and took it to El-Bathanum. It remained
there some time, until the elders brought it back
again to its place. Other people from Fayûm
fetched away the body of the young man, and
when they had reached Moeris the angel of the
Lord took him, and brought him back to the
place in which his father's body reposed. The
monks had several other times separated the body
of the young man from that of his father, and
when they came the next morning found him

again at his father's side, until one of the old men
had a dream, as if somebody said to him: “God
be praised; as long as we lived in our bodies we
were not divided, and also with Christ we are not
divided; why will you separate us from each
other?” From that day forward no attempt was
again made to separate them, and when the place
in the desert was destroyed, and people were
anxious for relics, these were taken from their
place, and brought to the side of the church of
St. Macarius. A grotto was built for them, and
in the time of the Patriarch Theodosius a church
was erected to them.
The third church of the Macarius Monastery
lies to the south, and is dedicated to the martyr
Ischynon of Alexandria. The sanctuary is in the
east; two domes roof the choir. Other sanctuaries
are found in the Kasr, which is protected by a
wooden drawbridge, namely, a chapel of the
Virgin (El-Hadra), in the choir of which a
heap of torn fragments of Arabic and Coptic
manuscripts represent the library of Dêr Makâr.
My cousin sought for something by way of souvenir,
but found little that went back beyond
the seventeenth century. The monks looked on
Behind the principal church of the monastery we
were shown the “Macarius well.” It is a sagje,

i.e., a draw-well worked by an ox, and furnishes
good drinking-water. The waterwheel was fairly
large, and instead of a pail, clay vessels brought up
the clear water, a real gift of God, from a depth
of more than 10 yards. Dirt and filth were
not lacking in the monastery, and the rooms and
cells of the community made a bad impression.
The occasionally fresh whitewashed walls are
reminiscent of covered graves, and there is little
in the place to attract the stranger. If the monks
of the wadi occupy no high place in civilization
and culture, those of the Macarius Desert have
the sad privilege of representing at its worst the
“nobility of the Egyptian people,” as they were
considered in Schenûte's times. The knowledge
of the low condition of these monks seems to
have reached distant Arabs. Our Sheikh, who
was a native of Mareotis, before our visit to the
monastery had characterized it by the little flattering
epithet “battâl,” i.e., bad. But since we
accepted their hospitality, I will refrain from
showing how right he was. We were filled with
an acute feeling of sorrow. What had become
of this historic, once flourishing, and now desolate
place? The long series of venerable figures who
had once dwelt in holiness in this place, and whose
names are celebrated not only in the Synaxars
of the Copts and the East, but in the writings

of the Mother Church, truly deserve a better
Close to the monastery of Macarius traces of
hyenas and wolves lead to ruins which the Arabs
describe as remains of the “Kasr benât,” Castle
of the Virgin. We were told it was a “convent.”
They are not the only ruins in the neighbourhood.
A dozen or so of lesser ruins may be found in a
circumference of a few hours' ride in the Macarius
Desert, fallen to pieces and buried in sand. We
may learn from the report of a French missionary,
Père Sicard, how quickly the waves of the Libyan
sand ocean do their work, and swallow up even
monumental remains. He relates how in 1701,
in that neighbourhood, about three or four hours
from Dêr Macarius, he saw “fifty monasteries,
easily distinguished one from the other, but
desolate and almost in ruins.” My cousin judged
that excavations in that part of the desert would
be wholly unfruitful.
The return from the Macarius Monastery is
marked in my diary with a little cross. It was
extremely trying. The burning heat made us
twice attempt to rest in the shade afforded by
the camels. But each time we had to give up
the idea, for the heat of the sand penetrated our
thin burnous, and was so unendurable that we
preferred to ride on. Bir Hooker was reached

in the night. When the big camp-fire was at
last visible, and we saw the white figures of
inquisitive Arabs crouching near, we knew that
our discomfort and fatigue were over.

[Back to top]



Departure from Wadi Natrûn—Muftah's “weakness”—Through
the land of the Children of Ali—Kom Marghab—Fata
—The Pasha deluded by the mirage—Story of
the enigmatical Sidi Melûnte—Arrival at the ruins of
Karm Abu Mina—Dangerous illness of the leader of the
expedition—Eureka: the holy city is found!—The vineyard
of Father Menas—History of Menas—Departure and
return of the caravan—Strange farewell banquet in the
casino at Mex.

ABU SÊF'S flight was long forgotten, and we had
become accustomed to the discomfort caused by
the abstraction of a camel. Our stay in the
wadi resulted in an extraordinary amount of
change and disturbance. We were at fault in
sparing our Beduins too much, while only Sheikh
Muftah, who was never tired, accompanied us to
single monasteries with one or two camels. Eluâni
and Abd el-Al remained behind with the other
animals, so that the whole time the camp, high


above the horizon of the desert, was visible to
Bir Hooker and the company. When we set off
at noon on July 3rd for the Auladali Desert, Abd
el-Al and Eluâni showed signs of something like
homesickness. At least they would have preferred
a direct and speedy ride home, and it
required constant threats of the Mamûr and of
withholding the backschish agreed on in order
to keep the otherwise excellent fellows in check.
And as regards ourselves certain ominous signs
became apparent, although we made light of all
obstacles. They began with an increasing nervous
irritability which produced disputes every moment,
and slowly passed into the early stages of dysentery,
one of the most serious illnesses that
threaten the European in this and similar
climates. The quick and sudden death of the
Mudir, at whose villa we were expected as
guests, and where we had only to pay a visit
of condolence, showed that the insidious enemy
was in the immediate neighbourhood. Then came
a third: our provisions, which had got low, could
not be supplemented from the canteen of the company.
The canteen—rarely required by Europeans
in summer—contained at that time only tins of
preserved provisions, condensed milk, and such
things, for which we long had had the greatest
distaste. Only a case of soda-water, a few eggs,

and several hens of the poorest sort were at last
delivered to us, and gratefully received. The
water question became more and more acute.
In the monasteries the water was good and free
from all objection, but that was no longer the case
with Bir Hooker, the big cemented well of the
station and its environs. At other seasons it
might be possible to procure wholesome and
excellent water from the Beduins; but we were
evidently unfortunate, and I suffered severely from
diarrhœa, while my cousin was more affected by
the want of suitable food. At times the medicines
provided by Schiess Pasha for such occasions were
beneficial, and also the glass tubes filled with
caffeine pastilles of a Rhenish factory.
The first day's ride was stopped after a few hours,
for Sheikh Muftah, who on the journey to the
Macarius Monastery had only succeeded in killing
a wounded gazelle, had better luck. While Eluâni
was preparing a good soup, and Abd el-Al was
toasting little pieces of the meat at the open fire,
people brought the -last farewells of the acting
Mudir. He sent some minerals as a gift, among
them fine specimens of salt, natrûn, and gypsum.
Sick persons from distant tents were also brought
to us, and the few pots of milk with which they
presented us were a welcome honorarium for the
little assistance and advice we could give them. To

the great joy of the men, who saw that it was done
on purpose, my cousin offered some of the women
who had come with them Arabian coffee. It was
known that women must not eat or drink in the
presence of strangers, least of all take the men's
drink, coffee. When the camp was broken up the
next morning, the numerous Schuâbi Beduins who
had appeared on the scene paid us spontaneous
homage. Everything was ready packed, we were
aloft, swaying on the heavily laden camels, when
there came up a few pitifully sick persons, among
them a child covered with skin eruption. The ointment
was stowed away in one of the chests, but as
my cousin did not hesitate to have them unloaded in
order to give the much needed help, loud testimonies
of gratitude and of praise of Allah were
That day the caravan passed the north-west high
ridge of the wadi, everywhere collecting information
about “Antikât.” We camped early, and
successfully conquered the dangerous exhaustion
with the remains of the gazelle soup and some
strong red wine with eggs. Eluâni was the hero of
that day, for after a brief chase he brought home a
fine gazelle. We had hitherto been very sparing
of our ammunition and could now be more generous.
So in the afternoon we had a shooting match for
the Beduins. An empty bottle stuck upside down

in the sand at a long distance, with a lemon on top of
it, served as a mark for the Sheikh and Eluâni, while
a big tin biscuit-box, which we, too, occasionally hit,
did the same for Abd el-Al. The shooters lay on
their stomachs, and the whistling of the bullets, which
jumped over the sand raising slight eddies, sounded
far into the desert. On this relatively happy
day, Sheikh Muftah, our bold and indefatigable
guide, for the first time showed signs of human
weakness. In miserable situations, when a glass of
whisky could work wonders in reviving and promoting
energy, and was really to be regarded as simple
medicine, Muftah always refused it with signs of
the greatest horror. Further, when he learnt the
contents of the different chests, he would never permit
that which contained the liquid strictly forbidden
by Allah and the law to be placed on
his camel. In the evening by the camp-fire the
pious Moslem turned to my cousin with the
words: “Kaufmann Effendi, I have pains in my
back and shoulders!” He was told that he should
go to sleep, then it would all pass over, and be
as before. There was a brief pause, and Muftah
said: “The adwïge1 with which you rubbed the
sick boy in the desert would help me, so sure as Allah
lives.” My cousin then told Muftah to sit near our
folding chairs and ordered Eluâni to rub his back
1Plural of “dawa,” medicine.

A MENAS AMPULLA (FOURTH CENTURY). Portrait of the patron of the Libyan Desert between camels, with a Greek inscription.

with whisky and to massage the painful places.
We signed to Eluâni, who took in the situation, not
to spare his strength, and the Sheikh must have had
something to endure. But he held out, and so it
availed nothing. When it had lasted long enough,
Muftah, turning to my cousin, said: “Effendi, the
pain is not on the skin, it is inside! I will rub myself,
and frequently, for several days.” We gave
him the remainder of the whisky together with
the bottle, and without Eluâni's information, who
secretly watched the Sheikh in the evening, it was
clear that his quite inconsequent liveliness was due
to the “inside treatment,” which the son of the
desert had carried out as thoroughly as possible.
The following days again made great demands on
our strength, since everywhere we came upon and
surveyed ruins. The temperature was more striking
than ever: in the night there was a great fall
of the minimum thermometer to 33° Fahr.; one day
at 1.30 p.m. there was a maximum of 115° in the
shade and something over 140° in the sun, while in
the morning at sunrise it was already 84°. This
considerable heat had no effect on the temperature
of the body, and the dryness of the air helped us
over all difficulties. Without the dryness the heat
would naturally have been intolerable, for it corresponds
with that in the engine-room of a battleship
during the passage of the Red Sea, when a change

of stokers every two hours is necessary. The Beduins
protect themselves from the heat in a fashion
very incomprehensible to the northerner. While we
were inclined in the heat to take off our khaki coats
and to travel in bathing-drawers and white Tunisian
burnous, the sons of the desert, as soon as the sun
began to shine in good earnest, wrapped themselves
up in thick woollen rugs; their heads vanished in a
turban of from eight to ten thick folds, so that only
the nose and the sharp prying eyes were visible.
Later on, during the excavations, experience taught
us the necessity of this strange way of keeping off
the sun, and I now wonder that neither my cousin
nor I suffered from sunstroke.
We were marching in sight of the slopes of the
mountain El-Ned, at the edge of Wadi Natrûn, in
order to visit the ruins of Medina Kiffari, already
surveyed by Dr. Junker, the African traveller. On
his maps, published in “Petermanns geographischen
Mitteilungen” in 1880, the ruins are marked as
very much to the north-east of the Kasr el-Gettajeh,
and Junker took about a day's journey between
the two places. Strangely enough, neither Sheikh
Muftah nor Eluâni, who was skilled in gazelle
hunting in nearly every corner of the Auladali
Desert, knew the “ancient city” even by name.
No one in the tents we occasionally passed had any
knowledge of it; indeed, everybody declared that

Kiffari was not Beduin, and it was evident that the
place bore another name. The draughtsmen of
Junker's map, who drew according to the notes in
the explorer's diary, were obviously at fault, for a
careful and minute search of the district gave only a
few disconnected ruins of an older time. But in the
course of those researches we heard of the existence
of a large field of ruins north-east of the spot
designated as Medina Kiffari, ostensibly the largest
in Mariut. We decided to seek it later on, and at
the moment proceeded on an easterly route straight
across the Auladali Desert, in the hope of striking
on the traces of an old caravan route which tradition
said once led from Alexandria to the Nitrian
monasteries. The temple of Menas, if not situated
on that route, must lie in the neighbourhood, and
thus it was of importance to locate one or other of
the ancient wells. This traversing of the desert
was, however, fruitless. We came upon no tent, and
what was worse, no well from which we could
replenish our gheerbahs with fresh water, for what
they contained had acquired a disagreeable taste.
The way led through a part of the desert sporadically
without vegetation or with scanty undergrowth.
Early in the morning of July 6th we saw
a few Beduin tents, the dwellings of poor people,
who entertained us with a dish of milk. I have for
the second time a note in my diary “Ill and

wretched,” and we determined to keep up as long
as was necessary to discover the large complicated
ruins, but to return unsuccessful rather than to court
certain death.
At length, at the Kom Marghab, we came upon
an encampment of twenty-three tents, the sharply
defined rows of which clung to the yellow chain of
hills like a little black village. The strangers were
offered Nile water, with which the zemzemien, i.e.,
the round bottles that hung from the pommel of the
saddle, could be filled. Those Beduins live in the
district of the delta and fetch their water every few
days from one of the numerous canals of the delta
which extend their fertilizing arms into the desert
region. We twice saw the spectacle of the fata
from half way up the ridge. In the
distance was a long glittering strip of lake which
we took to be Lake Mareotis. In the course of a
few hours it vanished. The remarkable appearance
of the srâf, also called moije scheitân, that is,
devil's water, at times deceived the camels. An
entertaining story was current in Beduin circles, and
the Sheikh of the Kom Marghab mentioned the
names of the persons concerned. A pasha who
years ago had travelled in that district beheld the
wonder from the same Kom. As the man was
speculating in the region of the neighbouring province
of Behêret in reclaiming the steppe land, and


saw the water at much closer quarters than we did,
he inquired concerning the Sheikh of that district
and desired that he would give him all rights to the
place, for which he was willing to pay a sum to be
arranged, and, would permit the encampment to
remain there in perpetuity. A meeting was fixed
to take place at Damanhûr for the purpose of
drawing up an agreement, and the cunning Auladali
Sheikh accepted by way of earnest, in the best
sense of the word, a big handful of guineas—that is,
English gold sovereigns. When later the Pasha
was told how he had been deceived by the devil's
water, he did not take the matter badly; he
remained as before a special friend of the Auladali.
I myself had an apparition that day which I
regarded as a sick man's vision, and which I at first
believed when Eluâni hurried up at my cry and led me
away, saying in terror that no man dared look at it.
I saw a giant shadow of a camel-rider over a hill of
stones which somewhat resembled an ancient building.
The figure stood upright, not inverted, and
its dimensions were similar to those of the spectre of
the Brocken.
At the Kom Marghab there was again heard, at
least in the conversation of our people, the name of
a mysterious personage behind whose significance
we could not penetrate. From time to time during
the long march the Beduins related long stories.

Eluâni at least was indefatigable, and in the evenings
by the camp-fire he continued them, surrounded
by an eager listening circle of stranger Beduins.
We understood very little of these tales, and
could never see the connection. But it was perfectly
clear, from the ever-recurring name Sidi
Melûnte, that they concerned him.
The endless repetition of such stories about a
man who could only be some very important Sheikh
excited our extremest curiosity. When Muftah
was first asked who was this Sidi Melûnte of whom
everybody was talking, the conversation stopped,
and nothing more was heard that day. As they
would not explain, there seemed no doubt that the
mysterious Sheikh was a suspicious character,
perhaps the leader of a great Beduin disturbance or
a political conspirator. Sidi Melûnte continued to
appear in the tales, and at length Muftah and
Eluâni, yielding to our energetic demands, confessed
that he was a great Auladali Sheikh, but that he was
dead. They evidently told us that to get rid of the
matter. Sidi Melûnte continued to play his part,
and from the little we could gather of the legend, it
seemed that his person was wrapped in a veil of
myths, similar to the legends of the Elf Lêlet in the
“Arabian Nights.” Repeated questions had only the
result of making the men grin amiably, just as if we
were making a joke which must always be laughed

at. We determined to find out later something more
definite about this mysterious personage, and to
inform the Mamûr Markaz or the municipality of
Alexandria. But fortunately the matter was explained,
and, indeed, at Kom Marghab. A serious
interview with Eluâni, who at length realized that
we were not to be trifled with, resulted in the confession
that Sidi Melûnte had no existence at all,
much less was he buried even as a legendary hero.
Muftah's and Eluâni's tales were in fact legends and
fairy-tales, well known in the Arab world, by the
famous Abu Zet el-Hilâl, and Sidi Melûnte turned
out to be a recurring, unimportant ordinary Beduin
interjection, just as any story-teller might say after
a long pause “That's the story,” or as underbred
people have the bad habit of saying Mr. So-and-so
without meaning anybody in particular. But we
were still suspicious, and did not believe even this
explanation, and it was only later that it was confirmed.
The discovery of the conspirator Sidi
Melûnte would have been so very interesting.
We left Kom Marghab on the night of July 7th,
in order to continue our exploration of the Auladali
Desert, this time from east to west. A very
fatiguing ride over the steppe, half desert, half
hattje, led to the ruins to which the Beduins give
the name of Karm Abûm.
The small supply of water in the zemzemien was

long exhausted, and the liquid in the skins could
only be drunk without nausea by mixing with it
a generous quantity of red wine. We were
suffering badly from diarrhaea. Sheikh Muftah
well realized the danger of the situation, and was
more amiable than ever, a fact that only irritated
us, for neither would confess his condition for fear
of rendering the expedition futile. During the
night we froze at 380 Fahr. Towards morning
it got warmer (at 6 a.m., 680; at 8 a.m., 840), and
the damp sank in the same time from 850 to 460.
Even now I still marvel at Muftah's ability to find
his way, a thing he could do even in the thickest
fog. Seated on the supple camels, that almost
trotted, imagining that they were going home, we
gently descended the depression that resembled a
wadi. For over an hour it was filled with mist, in
which we enjoyed the spectacle of a “mist-bow”
with a fairly clear colour spectrum. Was it a good
omen? At the moment no one thought of any
possibility, and in my cousin's diary I find close to
the passage about the bow some sentences which
refer to the encampment made when the fog lifted,
in order to rest and eat, and especially to seek
among the sporadic tents for milk, eggs, a fowl, and
water. He writes: “Our gheerbahs were empty,
all but one, and that was already begun. But we
could not possibly drink that water. It was equally

nasty, used to make coffee or for washing purposes.
It is a pity that a chemical analysis is not possible!
Until we can procure drinkable water we have to
manage with a little brandy or whisky. The latter
did much service, for yesterday evening Eluâni fell
from his heavily-laden camel, and we all thought he
must have broken his neck, poor fellow! I rubbed
him with whisky, and his first word when he
recovered was the 'ghost' that he and Ewald had
seen at Kom Marghab, and that had seemed to me
so remarkable, because the giant camel-rider was
not seen on the clouds, as is usual with such
apparitions, but over the hill: Deo laudes qui malum
Eluâni is now absent with Abd el-Al in
order to fetch something for the exhausted explorers
to drink. The Sheikh has fastened the German
flag to the stock of his Arab gun, since there are
no poles. They were used for fuel. The Sheikh
is preparing Arabian coffee. I cannot even look
at the tinned provisions any more.”
The scarcity of water to which Monsignor
Kaufmann here alludes in all its bearings made
us feel anything but cheerful, even when two fowls
were brought in and our hunger better appeased.
In the height of summer the wells of the Auladali
Desert, if not dried up, are merely mud-holes, and
the water of the few cisterns has a salty taste. Even
though suffering physical ills ourselves, we had to

heal others, and the sight of diseased folk, of a child
with ulcers on its breast, a man with a gaping
wound in his leg, the edges of which were sewed
together by means of a tent nail and thin string,
made us forget our own sufferings for a moment.
Fortunately we had plenty of carbolic and iodoform.
We were filled with scant hope when in the late
afternoon (July 7th) the little troop approached the
region which neighbouring Beduins call Karm
Abûm and Bumna. Sheikh Muftah would under
no circumstances camp there, for it was infested with
robbers and enemies. But my cousin was utterly
exhausted and required a day's rest, and he did not
lose his energy until he had succeeded in insisting
on the camp being pitched at the Karm, near the
ruins and stones of an ancient city. Then as soon
as the Beduins had put up the tent he lay down on
a folding chair, apathetic, and his pulse slow. He
asked me to make him brandy compresses, while
Muftah sought for milk, but in vain, and Eluâni and
Abd el-Al hastened to the well Eisële, the one to
bring back water as quickly as possible, the other
to water the camels. My cousin remained in that
state all night and had no sleep. Only the brandy
compresses gave him any relief, and there was one
moment when I thought he was dying. As he had
the same fear, he would not let me hurry off to
Alexandria for a doctor. He became much worse

when Muftah brought some milk from a tent,
unfortunately only gheerbah milk, i.e., preserved in
goat-skins, the horrible, indescribable taste of which
caused vomiting.
When things were at their worst, Eluâni came
hurrying up from the northern Karm with two
gheerbahs of water. The well of Eisële from which
he came is one of the best in Mariut, but unfortunately,
before the arrival of our people a herd
of nearly a hundred camels had been there for three
or four days, and the water he brought us was
muddy and somewhat brackish. But it was not
absolutely stale, and lacked the nasty taste of the
gheerbah that induces nausea, and which resembles
the smell of small unventilated cabins in oceangoing
ships when Poseidon forces us to pay him
In spite of his weakness, my cousin retained the
interests of the archaeologist and the tiny hope
connected with this region of ruins, and he urged
a survey. The camp was set up on a flat, yellow
Kom, close to the spot on which later the excavation
buildings were erected. The sea of ruins mentioned
above could not be seen from it, and the reader may
picture my amazement when, in my first walk over
the series of Koms, I suddenly saw that chaos of
limestone blocks, all confused and without order, no
one stone lying on the other. It was a dangerous

climb, for, as a caution against the Harami, whom I
later came to know as brave men, but who were
then embroiled in a quarrel with our Sheikh's family,
I was heavily armed, and my gun hindered me at
every step. So I climbed about in order to find the
ruins of a building or some relic to relieve the
suspense and arouse curiosity. But I found nothing.
The hand of man and the desert had in the
course of many centuries accomplished the work
of destruction, the sight of which was both terrible
and grand. Close by was a series of barren hills,
the “Koms,” the surface of which was covered with
fragments. On our long ride through the desert
we had often been able to fix the age and epoch
of the upper layers of ground from such fragments
of pottery and vessels, and the eye quickly became
accustomed to pick out from the hundreds of pieces
those which showed some little decoration or traces
of workmanship.
And now I had the good fortune to find on one
of these Koms a fragment with the remains of a
design, and then others with clear signs of a
stamped impression. A little piece of a rim with
a camel's head decided the question. I had seen in
the Cairo Museum and at Schiess Pasha's examples
of the so-called Menas ampulla, where the saint
appears as patron of the Libyan Desert between
two kneeling camels. There was little doubt that



my find was a fragment of one of them, and my joy
was so great that I executed a real wild Indian
dance, quickly packed up, and, without fear of subterranean
chambers or Muftah's enemies, ran head
over heels to the camp in order to bring the news.
“Karl, it is the Menas temple,” I shouted, and I
am sure my news helped to save my friend's life.
In any case he recovered his strength, and when,
shortly after my return, Sheikh Schuchân dragged
or rather carried up to us his second wife, with the
help of one of his sons, and the consumptive young
woman collapsed in front of us, Kaufmann himself
fetched a third folding chair out of the tent for the
sick woman. It was Schuchân who in default of
everything else had sent us the gheerbah milk. His
tent was not far off, and later he became our friend.
We saw at once that nothing could be done for his
wife; we gave her some alleviation, and ordered her
to lie out in the sun, instead of remaining, as she
had for weeks, wrapped in rugs in the tent. We
gave Schuchân to understand that danger was near.
“I thank you,” replied the handsome bearded man;
“everything is in God's hands.” Five months
later, when we returned to Sheikh Schuchân to
begin the excavations, his wife had been sleeping
for two months in the soft bed of the desert, the
mightiest of all cemeteries.
On the same day Schuchân's son brought us an

“Antika,” his personal gift, because we had presented
his mother with our extra chair, some ground
coffee, and a good deal of sugar. What the boy
placed on my cousin's knees was nothing less than
a fine intact pilgrim's bottle, with the portrait of
St. Menas, the camel as symbol of the desert, and
a Greek inscription: “Eulogia ton hagion Mena,”
“a memorial in praise of St. Menas.” The clay
vessel looked so fresh and clean that it might
have been finished only that moment. It must
have lain in a sheltered place under the ground,
and so my cousin inquired about the spot where it
had been found, and rewarded the boy with a handful
of lumps of sugar. “That's for my mother,”
he said. For, to the great advantage of his
beautiful teeth, his Beduin ignorance prevented
his recognizing the use boys generally make of
sugar. “You can have any quantity of them [early
Christian antiquities] here close at hand.”
The little antiquity acted as medicine to Monsignor
Kaufmann. We must immediately go to the
spot. He accompanied us, and what had hitherto
been only conjecture became almost certainty.
After a little digging, which Schuchân's son accomplished
by means of our spade and his brown
hands, we came upon a perpendicular hole, rounded
at the top, out of which were taken one after the
other little jugs, ampullae, and a few lamps, all of

light yellow terra-cotta, and as well preserved as
if they had been left there the day before, instead
of more than a thousand years ago. The finding
of a complete potter's furnace, for such it was,
resulted in further confirmation. Although in no
condition to do so, my cousin wished to survey
the field of ancient ruins. He felt certain that
they were of an early Christian character. In the
centre was a pile of freestone which Sheik Muftah
took for an ancient palace of the Caliphs; the
position of the ruined blocks showed an enormous
apsis. “We must dig here; this ought certainly to
be the apsis of the Menas Temple.” Kaufmann's
talent for divination did not deceive him. Where
others would only have seen a confusion of freestone
blocks, we actually came upon the end of
the great basilica of the Emperor Arcadius, an extension
of the tomb of the patron of the Libyan
Desert. The only doubt my cousin still had was
due to the unexpected size and extent of the field
of ruins, which pointed to a whole city.
We were not the first explorers who had come
to Bumna or Karm Abûm. But no one had
foreseen the immense importance which the ruins
were to have for history. The intrepid young
J. R. Pacho, whose descendants still live in Alexandria,
was the first to give any information
about Bumna in his “Relation d'un voyage

dans la Marmarique,” which appeared in Paris
in 1827. We held Pacho in great esteem; it
was he who had laid the foundation of research
in Cyrenaïca, and his tragic and early death
will always be remembered. In 1825 he passed
Bumna, which he designated as “bourg romain,”
coming from Abusir, on the way to Kasr el-Gettajeh,
where I sorrowfully read his name on
the walls of the castle. Also W. Junker, the
African traveller, who was an excellent guide for
us in many ways, while crossing the Auladali
Desert in 1875, saw perhaps the ruins of Bumna.
At least I am inclined to that view. The Medina
Kiffari of his map, which we sought in vain in
reference to the site of the old city, can only be
Karm Abu Mina. It is especially to be remarked
that he describes granite blocks on that spot,
where the ruins are certainly of limestone. A
mere passer-by might easily make such a mistake.
When in 1907 I was preparing the edition of
my “Beduin Songs,” the third in the trio was my
predecessor in the literal sense, Professor Hartmann
of Berlin. The distinguished Berlin
Orientalist had, a few years before us, travelled
in the neighbourhood of Bumna when on a little
journey in the desert to collect linguistic and
poetical materials.
Information concerning the etymology of the

Arabic name “Bumna” was first given us by the
tribes of Beduins settled there, so far as Beduins
can be said to have a settled habitation. A
wealthy and distinguished race, that of Abum
Dêr, so named by the ancient ancestor “father of
the monastery,” have from time immemorial set
up their tents for some months of every year
near the Karm. This gave us the key to the
meaning of Bumna and Abu Mina; Karm Abu
Mina only means the “Vineyard of Father
Thus the city of Menas lives in the Hilalije cycle
of Arabic legends as the “vineyard of Father
Menas,” that is, in some of the tales ascribed to
Abu Zet el-Hilâl. We did not know that at the
time, but we were familiar with a more important
Arabic source which filled the chief place in the
scientific material my cousin had collected for
the expedition. I mean the description of the
sanctuary of Menas at the time of its decline,
published by the French archaeologist Quatremère,
in 1810, which is still extant in a Paris manuscript,
the work of an Arab traveller. The curious tale of
the traveller, who lived about the year 1000, might
have been taken for the product of Oriental
imagination until the excavations confirmed its
statements. In the translation which Kaufmann
gives in the first folio of his great Menas work,

it runs as follows: “I left Terenouli—a Coptic
episcopal city in the south-west part of the Nile
delta [the present village Terraneh is meant]—
and followed the road to Barca, and so reached
Mina, which is composed of the forsaken cities in
the midst of the sand desert, the buildings of which
are still standing. The Arabs hide themselves in
them in order to waylay travellers. Splendid well-built
palaces, encircled by strong walls, are to be
seen. They are generally surrounded by vaulted
colonnades, some of which serve the monks for
dwellings. There are a few springs of fresh water,
but they are rare. Thence you come to the Church
of St. Menas, an immense building adorned with
statues and paintings of great beauty, where lamps
burn continually day and night. At the end of the
building is a large marble tomb with two marble
camels, and above them a man who places a foot
on each of the camels, and one of his hands is
closed, the other open. This statue [in Arabic
the sense of the word statue is the same as
sculpture], which is also of marble, is said to
represent St. Menas. In the same church are
portraits of John, Zachariah, and Jesus on the
inner side of a large marble column at the right of
the entrance. In front of the figures is a door
which is kept closed. The statue of the Virgin
Mary is also to be seen covered with two curtains,

and statues of all the prophets. On the exterior of
the building there are figures which represent all
kinds of animals and men of all callings. Among
others may be distinguished a slave-dealer with a
purse in his hand. In the centre of the church is
an erection in the form of a cupola, under which are
eight figures, if I am rightly informed, representing
angels. By the side of the church is a mosque, the
mihrab of which is on the south, where the Mussulmans
come to pray. All the ground round the
building is planted with fruit trees, chiefly almond-trees
and carob-trees, from the soft sweet fruit of
which syrup is prepared. Many vineyards are also
to be seen, the grapes and wine of which are transported
to Egypt.”
If this description is taken in conjunction with
the aspect of the ruins when we first saw them, it
demonstrates in an astonishing manner with what
thoroughness the desert swallowed up and destroyed
the proud palaces of the ancient city and their
surroundings of luxuriant nature and lofty palms.
What remained of the “pride of all Libya,” as
Sophronius styled the temple of Menas? And
where no longer one stone stood on the other, was
it possible that some monument was preserved in
the bosom of the earth that might give future races
an idea of its ancient splendour?
It is here advisable to say a word about the

Egyptian national saint and patron of the desert,
and to describe him in a more definite manner than
he appears under the veil of legend. Who was
Menas, to whom early Christianity dedicated one of
its finest sanctuaries, to whose tomb in the oasis
troops of pilgrims travelled, to whose temple
Athanasius and Constantine, two of the greatest
figures of early Christianity, stood sponsors? The
Ethiopian texts newly discovered by Kaufmann
give the first complete information. Besides the
romantic story of the martyrdom of Menas they
offer numerous facts of historical importance.
St. Menas, whose memory is celebrated by the
Roman Catholic and Greek Churches on November
11th, and by the Eastern Church on the 15th
of the Coptic month of Hatur, was an Egyptian
officer in the Roman service. His mother was
named Euphemia, and his father was colonel, and
as such was promoted to be Prefect of Phrygia, in
Asia Minor. The young Menas, whose parents
had given him a good Christian education, was not
attracted by the military profession, but his father's
successor in the prefecture, who loved the young
man, was forced to compel him to become a soldier.
So against his will Menas entered the regiment of
the Rutiliaces, and all went well until the persecution
by Diocletian of the Christians of Asia
Minor, which was carried on with great severity,


especially against the Christians in the provincial
divisions of the army. The decree came to
Kotyaion — now Kutahia, where in 1833
Mohammed Ali of Egypt concluded a peace
with Turkey, and where in 1850—1 the revolutionary
Kossuth was imprisoned—the garrison in
which Menas was then stationed. As he was
thoroughly disgusted with military service, he fled
into the outskirts of the desert, and lived there like
a fellah, a life of self-denial and hard work. There
he had a vision which stimulated him to martyrdom
and prophesied the importance of his future
sanctuary. “Thy martyrdom will be greater than
the martyrs of a crowd of blood witnesses, thy
name will be honoured, and troops of people from
every quarter of the earth will come and take
refuge in thy sanctuary, which will be erected in the
land of Egypt, and thy power will manifest itself
and wonderful things, signs, and cures will come
about through thy holy body.”
As a result of that vision in the desert, our officer
defied the authorities and, indeed, in unusual circumstances.
It was the day of the riders' festival
in the stadium of Kotyaion. The country-folk of
Phrygia were assembled, as well as the inhabitants
of the town, with the heads of the community;
all the military had taken their places, surrounding
Pyrrhus, the governor. The games were

about to begin, when a young officer stepped into
the arena and in a loud and clear voice declared
himself to the armed troops as an adherent of
the proscribed religion. The man was recognized
to be Menas. But the governor was forced to
carry out the decrees of Rome. Menas was imprisoned.
They wished him well for the sake
of his family, and because he was popular as
an officer. In vain, at every fresh hearing, he
acknowledged Christ, and every fresh attempt to
urge him to obey the Imperial edict was useless.
Then the governor had to take the matter
seriously. He began with threats, but as they
availed nothing he had to proceed to business.
All the horrors of the Imperial Roman inquisition
were gone through; neither the grim torture of
whipping with thongs of ox-hide nor the tearing
of the flesh with iron scorpions could break the
courage of the believer, and at last his head fell
by the sword. Thus died Menas in 296 A.D.
As during the processes of torture the martyr had
indicated a wish to be buried in his native land
of Egypt, they went so far as to have his body
burned. When the executioners had departed
(the scene was the place of execution before the
gates of the town) friendly Christians snatched the
body of the martyr from the flames and preserved
it in a wooden coffin.


Now it happened that after a time a portion of
the Phrygian troops were ordered to Cyrenaïca, and
the command was given to a Christian officer
named Athanasius. He desired to fulfil secretly
the wish of the saint and also thereby to ensure
a higher protection for his army, and for these
reasons took the corpse with him on his campaign.
At the Lake of Mareotis, the first stopping-place
between Alexandria and Cyrenaïica, a great
battle was fought, which he won, and when Athanasius
came to return he wished to take back with
him his war talisman, Menas's body. But the
camel refused to carry the wooden chest any
longer, and so the saint was buried in that spot.
The place of burial soon became known. A
lame boy saw a shining light over it and was healed
there. A shepherd whose sick beasts rolled first on
the ground and then in the water announced everywhere
that his flock had suddenly been healed.
“And all the people who suffered from various
diseases came to the grave and were made whole.”
The leper princess from Byzantium, barren women,
people suffering from elephantiasis and other
diseases, lunatics, all found health and salvation at
the fountain of youth in the city of Menas.
A church was soon built over the grave in the
days of Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria, “with
the help of God-fearing King Taos,” i.e., Constantine

the Great. The whole of Egypt with its
bishops and priests took joyful part in the consecration
of the sanctuary of Menas. As the church
quickly became too small, it was extended by the
building of the enormous basilica of the Emperor
Arcadius. The Emperor Zeno built a city and
erected a palace for himself near the temple, and set
up a large garrison there as a protection against the
Beduins. He regulated the transport of the sick
to the sanctuary, of which it is said at the end of the
Ethiopian texts: “The fame of its miracles reached
to the boundaries of all lands.”
On the afternoon of July 10th, 1905, the fashionable
world which was assembled in the casino of
Mex, the sea-bathing suburb of Alexandria, and
filled the terraces of the large restaurant by the
sea, where a band was playing, saw a strange sight.
Two camels were seen approaching from Bab el-Arab,
the Beduin Gate, and they carried among a
quantity of baggage not less than four riders. The
spectators soon realized that the animals were
greatly fatigued and were moving with uncertain
steps, a fact that caused the riders, two Europeans
and two Beduins, to dismount as soon as possible.
Neither of the two camels would cross the railway
lines, and both were terrified when a couple of
carriages of the Alexandrian tramway rushed along

fairly near the line, bringing fresh visitors to the
seashore. For the sake of Abd el-Al we had given
up the journey by the Khedivial railway from
Amriah to Alexandria. The young Beduin was
so anxious to see “Iskanderije,” to walk the streets
of a real medine (town) and to admire the unveiled
white women and girls of whom he had heard so
many tales in the Arab tents. Now his camel
gave him a sign not to enter the forbidden paradise
where everybody fed on meat and sugar and tea.
We ordered him to fasten the camels to a stationary
buffer of an empty never used track by the side
of the railway.
Sheikh Sidi Muftah, who, although already paid
off, had joined us out of friendship, saw the impossibility
of bringing the camels of the desert nearer to
the ways of civilization or into the street traffic of
Alexandria, where only the sleek, almost hairless
fellah camels feel themselves safe and immaculate
among the elegant coupés and automobiles. The
Beduins, however, were abundantly compensated
when we invited them to a last meal together in
the casino of Mex.
While the sight of the sea rejoiced us after
our long travel in the desert, our hearts beat
higher when we caught sight of the casino in all
its prosaic and appropriate extent. Here was
bread, which we had not had for weeks; here

was clear, transparent water and the fleshpots of
Egypt. We did not shout “Thalassa, thalassa!”
but from the depths of the soul “Something to
eat!” Something nicer than bismuth, morphine,
and quinine, though without the last we should
never have got through. But I do not mean that
the last nimbus of the romance and magnificence
that was ever present in our journey through the
desert had fled and faded. Only an hour before
we had found enchantment in the ride over the
narrow dam of the Lake of Mariut, and my cousin,
ill as he still was, shared the enthusiasm and the
silent astonishment of Abd el-Al when from the
heights of Abd el-Kader the young Beduin saw
for the first time the distant view of the medine
of Alexandria, surrounded by sea and lake, with
its slender minarets and the lighthouse, which he
thought were “awanûd” (columns) so delicately
built that they threatened every moment to fall
The experiment in the casino of Mex went
off favourably for our astonished sons of the desert.
Not that the sight of nomad Beduins was new to
all visitors. Dozens of them are to be seen daily
in the bazaars and in certain native and Greek cafés
of Alexandria. But it was an event when we
entered the casino with them. As one of them
had to remain with the camels, Sheikh Muftah

took the first turn. The restaurant was nearly
empty) the people were in the open air on the
shore or watching the bathers), but it quickly
became the goal of discreet and indiscreet curiosity.
We sat down at one of the tables on either side
of the Sheikh, who did not feel specially comfortable
in the chair of Western civilization. Fortunately
he had become familiar with the general way of
sitting down, for in the desert we had often put
him in our third chair in order to have some fun,
for after ten minutes he secretly drew up his legs
and crouched on the chair as he would have done
on the sandy ground. The casino chairs did not
allow of that. Muftah took in the state of affairs
with great dignity. Inquisitive passers-by annoyed
us more than they did him, and as, at that hour,
there were only cold dishes, the meal went smoothly.
Of course he used his fingers, after a trial of the
fork made him mistrustful of the sharp points of
that instrument. Only iced soda-water was drunk,
and the popping of the cork when the bottles were
opened was greeted with great delight. “Rasâs,”
he cried each time, “a bullet!” The waiters vied
with each other to serve us, and I am very doubtful
whether they took greater interest in the Beduins
or the unwashed, sunburnt, and dusty Europeans.
One of them asked if we were Turkish officers
and came from Barca. Monsignor Kaufmann

replied: “We are Germans, and have been
a month in the desert.” When we left there we
were approached by the first reporter. The farewells
of Muftah and Abd el-Al were touching.
The latter would not cease kissing our hands,
and the Sheikh, tears standing in his hawk's eyes,
said, embracing us repeatedly in turns: “You are
my sons; I am your father!”
We looked back for some time at the fine
fellows through the clouds of dust made by our


[Back to top]



In front of Mamûr Markaz's house—Engaging a Sheikh—To
Karm Abu Mina for the second time—A rebellion among
the Auladali—The strangers are treasure-seekers—They
intend to build a Christian city—My housebuilding—
Beduins as workmen—A walk through the ruins of the
Marble City—Our assistants—Diplomatic intervention—
The “German officers” signal to German battleships.

FOUR days after the discovery, on July 11th, 1905,
a telegram in the Frankfurter Zeitung spread the
news of the finding of “an early Christian city
in the Libyan Desert, with every sign of its being
the long-sought sanctuary of Menas.” Some days
spent in travelling in the delightful Fayûm district,
where Monsignor Kaufmann again became absorbed
in ruins and antiquity-dealers, soon restored his
health, and took us out of the way of reporters.
Schiess Pasha advised us not to give any information
about the magnificent find until we had obtained

permission to excavate from the Egyptian Government.
For my cousin was determined, notwithstanding
that our scanty means would hardly allow
of more than a normal journey home, to excavate
the sanctuary of Menas. Brugsch Pasha, the
able Vice-Director of the Cairo Museum, and
Maspero, the Director in Chief, the celebrated
Egyptologist, and Director-General of the “Service
des Antiquités,” promised to support the official
request, and the Ministry fixed November as
the time by which the permission would certainly
be secured. But one little thing was lacking—
Only a man of great energy and determined
to carry out a plan and to fulfil a great aim
could accomplish what Monsignor Kaufmann did
in the course of the following years. He had to
contend with many difficulties: want of money, hostility,
and jealousy; he had to lead an ascetic life on
the edge of the great desert, all of which was the
harder to overcome because constant intellectual
exertion and attention were bound up with the other
worries. I considered the circumstance that I was
able to accompany him into the wilderness as the
greatest good fortune of my life. For was I not to
visit a high school which would lead me into the
midst of the ancient world and the enchantment
of Africa, for which as a schoolboy I had been an

enthusiast? If, all the same, I had and still have no
other aspirations than to be and remain a modest
country schoolmaster, a desire founded essentially
on the joy and satisfaction that calling gives me,
the satisfaction is doubled because as a young
man I had the advantage of these valuable
We returned home for the summer, partly to procure
money, partly to make preparations for a great
excavation campaign. But we landed again on
Egyptian ground on October 18th, this time at Port
Said. I must here mention a curiosity of civilization
that so many travellers in the English sphere of
interest bitterly complain of, and which almost
spoiled our voyage. Obliged by circumstances to
travel via Brindisi, we chose one of the so-called
“greyhounds,” that is, one of the quick steamers of
the type of the Isis and Osiris of the Peninsular and
Oriental Company. Stiff English etiquette prevails
on those boats, and many people consequently avoid
them. All went well on the first day until the
evening, when the last dinner-bell rang. Having
washed our hands and tidied our hair, we innocently
entered the dining-saloon, and I do not know who at
the moment was the most astonished, the elegant
company of ladies and gentlemen in correct evening-dress,
who ostensibly took stock of the two Germans,
or we ourselves in our comfortable travelling suits.

For not even the short black sack worn by my
priestly cousin counted with these people as a
wedding garment, and unfortunately they are being
more and more imitated by the German upper middle
classes when on their travels. We made two attempts
to fight the fashion and the foolish convention, foolish
on account of the inconsistency which permitted any
sort of costume at luncheon, and compelled travellers
who knew as little of each other as passengers
in the restaurant car of an express train to parade
in the evening in dress-coat and white tie. On the
third day we gave up the struggle and dined in our
cabin, our better clothes having been packed in
luggage sent on in advance. At any rate no
measures were taken, as was the case with the Cairo
professor, to prevent us from dining in the saloon.
The third day the Isis entered the troubled waters
of the Canopean Nile, the sand-dunes of the
Egyptian coast came in sight, and we could see the
immense lighthouse of the Suez Canal, which warns
ships of the enormous moles of over 2,250 and
1,600 yards long stretching out their stone arms
into the sea to protect the land against the mud
of the Nile.
The Board of the “Direction Générale des
Antiquités” would not meet until November, and
we should have to wait until then for their consent
to the excavations. Meanwhile Sir Gaston Maspero

most kindly authorized my cousin to make
provisional attempts at excavation, and so there
was no reason why we should not put the work
in train. Thanks to the kindness of Dr. Bode,
Director of the Berlin Museum, we had money in
our purse. We had met him—and he is one of the
great men of art—at Vienna, on our journey across,
at the house of the Ambassador, Freiherr von
Tucher, and we were safe for the beginning of
the work, the most difficult part of so great an
It was during this beginning of things that no
one thought of writing up the diary, or what
archaeologists officially call the “Journal.” It was
the only period when we neglected to do it. Endless
visits to pay, negotiations with the Governor of
Alexandria, who fortunately decreed that the ground
of Karm Abu Mina was Government territory
(we were prepared for extortion on the part of the
Beduins) and much else left us no moment of
leisure. On a hot afternoon in the beginning of
November, armed with a letter from the Commandant
Hopkinson Pasha, and after a donkey ride of
many hours, we appeared once again at the dwelling
of Mamûr Markaz of Mariut in Amriah. He
had everything prepared for our entry into Bumna,
and wished to accompany us himself to the Karm
at the head of a cavalcade of soldiers. To his joy—

for the official had never been in that division of
the district of Libya under his charge, and the
authorities only appeared at the “Gebel,” the
region of the Beduins, in cases of special need—my
cousin declared that he must refuse the convoy
of Askari, for it was necessary not to alarm the
Beduins, who without that would find difficulty in
accounting for our reappearance.
Then came an important part of the programme,
the engagement of our workpeople and the purchase
of horses. After a brief reception the Mamûr
had chairs brought out, and we sat down in front of
the official residence. All sorts of Beduins and
Arabs who had been summoned crouched around.
The negotiations were carried on in English and
Arabic. Mamûr Mahmud spoke to us in his best
English and treated with the Arabs in Arabic, and we
often heard a “jálla, kelb!” (“Get out, you dog!”)
or a similar expression, which those so entitled
evidently received as a mark of esteem, returning a
friendly and devout “Hátr, Effendi, hátr!” (“At
your service, sir!”). The choice of a responsible
Sheikh who would later be the head of our colony of
workmen was a quicker process than might have
been expected in the East. We had refused Sidi
Muftah, the leader of the expedition of discovery,
because his temperament seemed to us to unfit him
for a settled post, and because we had become too

intimate with him. Others whom we interviewed,
and who respectfully kissed our hands and those of
the Mamûr, pleased us still less or made exorbitant
demands. Then there appeared a good-looking
Beduin of about thirty-five years of age, with
small, cunning eyes and a black moustache.
“Gentlemen, I have been in Berlin, I have been
in Frankfort. Take me!”
The Mamûr had reserved this surprise, and
he had calculated rightly. His candidate, Sheikh
Sidi Sadaui, pleased us at first sight. The
examination we put him through revealed that
he was descended from the tribe of Gneschat and
that his character was irreproachable. He had
always pitched his tent in the close neighbourhood
of the Mamurîje, and had rendered service to
the chief official shortly before by the capture
of a murderer whose robberies had been the terror
of Mariut for a decade and had extended to Barca.
The man, Ibrahim Abu Challât, was soon after
executed. Sadaui had a wife, was moderate in his
demands—the customary formula, “My house is
thy house,” we of course knew was merely Oriental
politeness—and we could grant his one request, that
he might not leave behind his friend Abd el-Alim.
We thought to inaugurate the work with the
aid of these two men and to procure workmen
from the families of Beduins who dwelt in the

immediate neighbourhood of Karm Abu Mina.
The Mamür also promised to have Eluâni summoned,
who had gone with his camel to the
province of Beheret, whom we were determined
to teach to be our cook and general servant.
We had to give up the idea of European aid,
and of a colony of Italian or Greek workmen, not
only on account of the greater expense and the
almost impossible provisioning, but also out of
regard to the Beduins, whom those men would
simply have chased away. Similarly the employment
of fellahs, the Egyptian peasants from
the delta, would have resulted in murder and
killing and expulsion. The people themselves
confirmed this later.
The Mamûr now bade his soldiers bring up
the horses, partly samples, at the sight of which
my heart bounded; they were splendid animals
of noble race, for all knew the names of their
ancestors. The price asked by the Arabs varied
between £4 and £20. The Mamûr, who was on
our side and keen for our advantage, advised us
to take two of the cheaper animals, which would
greatly improve with good feeding. This appealed
the more to Monsignor Kaufmann because he
preferred a docile horse to one of race. So we
bought two steeds: Abiad, the “white,” and
Achûs, the “grandfather,” occasionally called “el







achmar,” on account of its red colour, both complete
with saddle and bridle. The business ended, the
Mamûr put a nice room, intended for the English
inspecting officers, at the disposal of his guests.
In the evening the customary sheep was sacrificed
before the Mamurîje, while in return we had a
second charûf slaughtered for the numerous
Beduins who had come on our business. Sheikh
Sadaui, the future chief of our workmen, related
his experiences in Germany, sitting round the
big fire, which lighted up in fantastic fashion the
white crouching figures and the piled-up chests
which contained our equipment, provisions, etc.
As a young fellow he had with other Auladali
accompanied a German “doctor,” a Stuttgart
impresario I imagine, on a tour through Germany.
But his impressions had nearly faded away. He
always came back to speak of the Alexanderplatz
in Berlin, and of an arabije drawn by a dog, a
baker's little barrow, and over and over again
one asked the other, “Yes, Sheikh, was there
meat every day there?” “Not only meat as much
as I liked,” was the answer, “but also white,
foreign bread.” “The Germans are good,” philosophized
a lusty old man, “praise be to Allah!”
When we approached the ruins of Karm Abu
Mina for the second time, the heavens looked
as if they intended to assure us that this visit

we should not suffer miserably from thirst. The
clouds rolled themselves up in a threatening knot,
and the sun peeped from under them, so that
swift shadows passed over the yellow clayey,
rather than sandy, desert. Schuchân's tent stood
in its old place; the bearded Beduin recognized the
Effendi from afar and hastened to welcome us.
We stopped near by, quickly dismounted, and
entered his “bet,” the airy house of the desert.
“There lies Mirjam,” he said, pointing to a lonely
grave on the plain; “now I am alone with my
children.” The big camel's-hair winter tent, about
20 square yards in size, was arranged for our use,
the rush mats laid in the centre, two couches
built up with rugs, while our people made them-
selves comfortable round about, so far as they
were not busy with the horses and baggage and
the preparation of the food. Schuchân, who as
an adherent of the Senussi despised coffee,
brewed a sweet “chai Senussi,” and after tea we
went to bed with a feeling of perfect security.
The dark-skinned company crouched round the
fire for a long time, and Schuchân, whose trend of
thought I know, would have replied to all the
information regarding the purpose of our return,
“I thought so; the two 'nemsaui' are mad!”
Early in the morning I still lay under the brown
tent when my cousin returned from a survey of

the excavation field. He had feared the possibility
of an encampment of strange tents during our
absence, and was now content. But we made a
less pleasing discovery. One of the little Schuchâns
had been playing with the Kodak, which
had been hung up on the tent. Sand had thus
penetrated into the machine. The photographic
apparatus therefore refused to work. The arrival
of the eight camels hired for the transport of
the baggage was hailed with joy, for now we
could have our own tent, under which the chests
and boxes and the two camp-beds with wire-wove
mattresses, and, last but not least, we ourselves,
could be better sheltered. But we greatly deceived
ourselves. On that November day the first winter
storm of the desert came up, and so certainly
from the south and so torrential in character that
Monsignor Kaufmann determined to go back at
once to Alexandria in order to fetch wood for a
little “house,” while Schuchân and Abd el-Alim
remained behind to guard our things. But the
ride to Amriah and the journey to Alexandria had
to be put off for a whole day. The wind eloped
with the European tent, and, shivering and dripping
wet, we took shelter with Schuchân. Soon Sheikh
Muftah Dabun, who had heard of the arrival of
his Effendis, came to greet us and embraced us
as if we were really his long-lost sons. This

evidently aroused great jealousy in our new Sheikh
Sadaui, and we were glad to depart, having first
provided Abd el-Alim and Schuchân with sufficient
powder and shot. Fate so willed, it turned out,
that the task of housebuilding at Karm Abu Mina
—that is, of the first wooden house—fell on me
alone. My cousin found other duties in Alexandria,
and had to go to Cairo, and I hoped on
his return to welcome him with a log-house ready
for habitation.
Thanks to Mohammed, the hotel factotum, I
at length found a native carpenter in Alexandria
after a dozen had declared they would not go to
the Beduins in the Gebel. Beams and boards
were dispatched to the address of the Mamûr, who
was to forward them by camels, and my carpenter
travelled with me. His luggage consisted of two
big sacks, in one provisions, such as bread, onions,
dates, and in the other all kinds of tools. I had
myself bought nails, locks, and hinges. The
carpenter, a capable young man, took farewell of
his relatives as if he was never to return, and
went with me by train to Bahig, the station on the
Khedivial private line then in course of construction
from which the city of Menas is now most
quickly reached. When the train stopped at
Bahig, and my man saw Bahig—that is, merely a
poor little station-building on the wide steppe—I

had much ado to get him to accompany me farther.
Horses were procured, and in the evening we
arrived at Bumna, where the wood awaited us.
Early next morning there were fresh scenes. “I
shall never return home alive,” said the victim,
throwing himself on the ground and calling on
Allah for help. As after many hours had passed
the carpenter made no attempt to begin work,
Sadaui put an end to that state of affairs by simply
holding his double-barrelled pistol to the man's
head. The argument was effective. The three of
us completed a box-like structure measuring about
4 1/2 cubic yards with two tiny windows and a real
A roof was lacking and many details when we
found we were out of large nails. The carpenter
had considerably underestimated the quantity that
would be needed. I determined to procure help
from the Mamûr at Amriah, and rode over with
the Sheikh. After several hours' ride, when we
were just near our destination, a storm of tropical
violence burst over us. The elements seemed to
be let loose; our horses started at each flash of
lightning, and there hovered before me the uncertain
form of the umbrella of civilization, which
would, however, have been of little use to me.
The earth shook, the road was unrecognizable ten
paces off, even by the Sheikh, who was well

acquainted with the neighbourhood, and there
was no sign of the storm abating. The tempest
continued to howl more wildly, but the rain was
a little less violent, and then Sadaui said in his
laconic manner: “Effendi, we have lost our way.”
We had to seek for Beduin tents, for the district
was wholly unfamiliar. After riding about for a
long time we met a young Beduin, who told us
that we had been going in a northerly direction
towards the sea instead of an easterly one, and
as we were thus nearer our point of departure,
we returned to Karm Abu Mina without nails.
At night the Sheikh rode over alone and procured
The next day the carpenter showed evident
signs of suffering from dysentery. He was so
terrified that he would take no part in the construction
of the simple roof, to measure 4 1/2 square
yards. It became a grotesque episode. Sadaui
once again held him in check with the pistol on
the roof, and the man still continued to throw
himself on the ground and implore help of Allah.
So it happened that I was as glad as the pretended
victim of the desert when my carpenter could
pack up and travel home under the escort of an
armed man. His honorarium was modest enough;
four days, including travelling and board, brought
him a whole pound! Later on he often worked

for us, but was not to be persuaded to a second
excursion to the Gebel.
By the middle of December the works on the
site of the old city were in full swing. The
Beduins began to come at first out of curiosity, and
some allowed themselves to be hired in the hope
of profiting by the treasure that was to be dug up.
As was to be expected in the East, there were spies
among them, and they every week gave information
to the Khedive, who was then energetically carrying
on the construction of his private railway into
the desert, about the doings of the “Nusrani,”
the Christians. If we became suspicious of such a
spy, a stern “inte challás!” (” You can go”) sufficed
to make him speedily shake the dust of the city of
Menas from his feet. After six months I came to
know the Khedive well, and personally informed
him of all that was going on at Bumna, so that
nothing more was to be apprehended in regard
to spies. At first we had fifty workmen, mostly
Auladali of various Kabyles, also negroes, so far
as they were freedmen of the Beduins. Our
most faithful workmen, who stayed with us the
whole two years, belonged to a negro family named
Chêr, who pitched their ragged tent with us, and
three men, Father Chêr and his two sons, Massaût
and Hassan, actively engaged in the digging.
People who undertook to work for us brought up

all their goods and chattels with them—that is
wife, children, tent—on donkeys or on a camel,
and had to pitch their tents a hundred paces from
the Kuschk (kiosk), as they called our log hut, so
that we soon had at our back a little village of
tents. That greatly lightened the work of the
guards—that is, of the permanent night sentries—
who could concentrate their attention on the extent
of level ground in front of our house. A large,
empty Beduin tent which I bought at the Souk,
the weekly Arab market of Bahig, served for
the bachelors and certain stranger workmen who
had no home, or for some reason or other stopped
with us in passing. From the first day Monsignor
Kaufmann introduced a strict and energetic discipline
as the only way to be successful with these
veritable children. All who saw the excavations in
progress were united in their admiration of the
performances of the sons of the desert. Lazy
persons and those who would not submit to the
kanûn (the rules) were unmercifully dismissed at
their second lapse, and had forthwith to strike
their tents. Visits of relatives and friends were
only permitted on the jom dschûma, the sacred
Friday of the Mohammedans, our pay-day, but the
Ghaffir had to be informed, and he, in his turn,
told us. No stranger was allowed to remain in
the camp overnight, and it was known all over









Mariut that our sentries had orders to shoot
all persons secretly approaching it at night with-
out the password. We had promised Hopkinson
Pasha never to go to the works unarmed, and at
night, at least, to set a trusty guard.
Work began at sunrise. At the first appearance
of dawn the Ghaffir woke the people in the
Sheikh's tent, and very soon the little fire flickered
up before each “bet,” where the men brewed their
Senussi tea and ate their flat cakes of dry bread.
The older ones prostrated themselves, and their
morning prayer to Allah rang out clearly. Only
in the few winter months had they water at their
disposal for ritual ablutions. From April to
November the use of water, the giving out of
which was under strict control, was forbidden under
penalty of instant dismissal, for the quantity at our
disposal was not always sufficient for cooking and
drinking. When the sun rose a horn was sounded,
and my cousin came out with his ominous black
roll-book in order to call the roll, while the Sheikh
gave out the tools, axes (fass) to the men and
youths, picks (haschêri) to the women and boys,
and baskets (zállak) to those employed in carrying
away the rubbish. In marching to the works these
lovers of the sun shivered and wrapped themselves
in their thick burnous. In December and January
the minimum night temperature was very low,

sometimes a few degrees below freezing - point.
The morning generally, set in with cold dampness
and thick mist, but about 8 a.m. the sun broke
through. The maximum day temperature varied
with a cloudy sky between 59° and 68° as a rule;
with clear weather in winter the temperature was
high, and 86° in the shade was quite usual in
February. Of the intense summer heat an idea
may be gathered from what has already been said
in earlier chapters.
The people marched with a goose-step to the
works. There we divided them into groups,
according to their day's task. With time some
of the more intelligent types showed themselves
capable of independent work, and so we had smart
foremen. For nearly two years we had a Druse
of the name of Slimên (Suliman) esch Schâmi—
that is, from the land of Scham (Syria)—whose
speciality was underground digging. The man
often did not see the sun for half a day, and in
exciting episodes, such as the discovery of the tomb
of Menas, could not be persuaded to come up for
the dinner-hour, and ate his meal by the light of
an oil-lamp or a stearine candle. Some astonished
us by their colossal strength and took it very ill if.
we did not make use of it for any difficult transport.
The Sheikh Sadaui was the overseer; he had an
excellent flair for finds and directed the work to be

done at places where something was likely to be
immediately forthcoming; one of the Effendi was
always on the spot to conduct proceedings. For
in their absence no object found might be touched
or put aside.
In winter, work lasted from sunrise to sunset;
from March to November from 5 a.m. or 5.30 a.m.
to 4.30 p.m. Reckoning the half-hour pause about
9 a.m. and the dinner-hour at noon, when the horn
was again sounded, it gives an average day of not
quite ten hours. Those who know what it means
in the hot season to do hard physical work under
a burning sun which between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. is
of a tropical heat will be able to estimate correctly
the performance of the scantily nourished
Beduins. No one except a native of the desert is
disposed to hold out in such a place for more than
a week, and even he must be treated reasonably
and at certain times be spared. So my cousin
allowed poor families who had worked for months
and were tired out by the pressure, one or two
weeks' holiday with full pay. Such was their
gratitude that not only would they go through fire
and water for their Effendi, but they became ever
more useful and expert. At the dinner-hour only
were they allowed to go to their tents, where the
women-folk had prepared food. Breakfast was eaten
at the works among the ruins of the ancient city.


When at the end of November we received the
permit of the Ministry my cousin proceeded in
grand style. The authorities gave up sending the
customary surveyor who was appointed by the
Government to assist at all excavations in Egypt,
but who had little or nothing to say, and yet was
a sufficiently heavy burden on the purse of the
excavator. I wonder if a Turkish official would
have held out longer in the Gebel than my Alexandrian
Monsignor Kaufmann writes as follows about
his first systematic proceeding in the great Menas
work: “At the beginning of the systematic excavations
about the end of November, 1905, three
points aroused attention. First, the trough-like
depression in the northern direction near the centre
of the ruins; it was almost circular in form, about
forty yards in its smallest diameter. A Beduin
named Schuchân, whose family had from time
immemorial pitched their tents every winter in the
Bumna district, thought he saw some years before
our arrival a pale, bearded man looking out from
among the ruins. He and his sons, who were afterwards
among our workmen, threw stones at the
apparition until it vanished. The circumstance
that just at that spot a sculptured marble figure
had been seen—for such would the 'Afrîte' have
been—encouraged us to dig there. But the circular

trough which we might have supposed to be an
ancient theatre turned out to be a water basin
connected on one side with the Xenodochia and
on the other with the sacred bath of the city of
Menas, and in any case destined for the use of the
pilgrims and monks of the sanctuary. Secondly,
near the spot where we made this trial digging was
the potter's oven, and it was easy to excavate it.
It had given the expedition the first likelihood of
finding the lost temple of Menas. Here, quite
close to the later extensive excavations, buildings
came to light, a whole series of furnaces, with canals
for bringing water and a fine cistern, and rich
booty in the shape of terra-cottas. Thirdly, the
semicircular heap of ruins in the chaos of stones in
the centre of the town offered a point of attack for
the discovery of the holy city. But the work, since
the Beduins we had hired must first have some
training for the difficult though interesting task,
and one which excited their curiosity in the highest
degree, could not be begun until the end of
December. After the first clearance, the removal
of a deep layer of freestone ruins, attempts at
excavation were made, proceeding from the supposed
principal apsis and then longitudinally from east to
west and across from south to north. Soon we
came upon fragments of architecture, disks of
columns, fragments of inscriptions, and some fine

capitals, on some of which we deciphered crosses
and the Christ monogram, a circumstance that
undoubtedly showed that the great basilica in
which Menas was buried must have been at that
spot. The further course of the excavations, however,
showed that it was the extension built by the
Emperor Arcadius, while the celebrated burial-place
was farther to the west, directly under a
second and older basilica. Among other things we
found fragments of mosaic, lamp-glasses, Menas
ampullae, and fifth-century coins under the rubbish
heaps two or three yards high.”
Beduin imagination enlivened each new find in
a peculiar way. They dug whole mountains of
splendid marbles out of the depths. The sharply
outlined white acanthus capitals which the earth
gave up were for them “chairs” for the nobles of
the old palace of the Caliph, which they declared
the ruins of the ancient Christian acropolis to be.
They peopled the great halls of the basilica with
royal pomp, and when slowly and carefully the spade
penetrated the depths under the earth and came
upon the once splendidly equipped tomb of Menas,
the children of the desert were sure that the royal
tomb filled with gold and treasure would now be
exposed, and we had great difficulty to make them
approach the precious object, protected, as they
believed, by monsters and serpents! It was only

when the symbol of the Cross, first concealed in
monogram figures, then clear in fine chiselled relief,
came out more frequently, that one or the other of
them recognized that it was a question of the monuments
of an early Christian church, and then their
suppositions went beyond the bounds of the excavations
into the prodigious. A Mecca pilgrim who was
passing through, wondering at the sight of our activity,
repeated the words of a Sura in the Koran in
which a mysterious city is mentioned that lay in
ruins, and that after a hundred years Allah awoke
again to fresh life. “'How,' asked the wanderer,
'shall God give life to this city, after she hath
been dead?' And God caused him to die for
an hundred years, and then raised him to life.
And God said, 'How long hast thou waited?'
He said, ' I have waited a day or part of a day.'
He said, 'Nay, thou hast waited an hundred
years. Look on thy food and thy drink: they
are not corrupted; and look on thine ass: we
would make thee a sign unto men; and look on
the bones of thy ass, how we will raise them, then
clothe them with flesh.' And when this was shown
to him he said, 'I acknowledge that God hath
power to do all things.'” I told the errant philosopher
the Frankish counterpart of his story, the
legend of the monk of Heisterbach.
The first great event of the excavations was the

discovery of the tomb of Menas. During one of
the long trial diggings we came upon a subterranean
passage. At the beginning of January,
1906, during the morning pause, we were summoned
to the “Bir.” We were sitting on the
drum of a column and taking some refreshment.
I remember it all as vividly as if it were to-day:
almost simultaneously with the words of Slimên
that it was a well, loud shouting came from the
direction of the Kuschk, which was three minutes'
distance from the place of excavation. It was the
voice of Abd el-Grim, the Ghaffir, who was trying
to keep off stranger Beduins. My cousin and I
went across the hill that formed the central point
of the ancient city, and met two handsome Arabs
in spotless burnous, and armed in a way not usually
found in the desert. They carried Martini rifles,
and their cartridge-belts slung across the shoulder
certainly fulfilled the purpose of making the necessary
impression. When they saw us, they greeted
us very politely, and one of them took some papers
from his red-leather bag and said, “I come from
the district of the great Gássabe (Marmarika), and
only want a letter read for me which I have carried
about for a long time, and must otherwise take to
Alexandria.” The letter was in German, and from
a Viennese lady who, in affectionate terms, invited
the man to go to Vienna, described the route via





Alexandria and Trieste, and, as is usual in such
cases, concluded with more expressions of affection.
The lady also promised to send money for the
journey, and did so, for months after the man came
again and stayed until oneof us went to Alexandria,
where a sum of £10 or £12 was awaiting him.
The two strange men who appeared so suddenly
at the Karm were haschisch smugglers; one of
them had carried on an excellent business at Vienna
in selling cigarettes, and spoke a little German—the
Viennese dialect, naturally—and was glad to find
some one who could read his letter. We did not
consent to write the reply for him—mistrust of all
was our best safeguard—and so with many expressions
of thanks the smugglers departed, after
they had been permitted to rest for an hour in
one of the tents.
The work went on again, and the ostensible
“Bir” could be examined. It was clear at the first
glance that there was a subterranean corridor of
large dimensions, which was filled up right to the
top of the barrel-vault. Before excavating, it was
necessary to remove the masses of freestone several
yards high above the ground; only then would it
be possible to penetrate the subterranean building.
So in the following days our suspense continued
to grow. A splendid crypto-porticus began to
appear, and on January 19th the first sgraffito came

to light with an adjuration of the Father Menas,
ABBA MHNA. Then the porticus branched off at
right angles, and led directly into the magnificent
tomb of Menas, where fragments of mosaic, lampglasses,
and fine marble-work filled the chamber
with a mass 12 yards deep.
At this time the conversation in the tents of an
evening was almost exclusively of the subterranean
vault we had discovered, and we were so excited
that we could scarcely sleep, and more than once
paid a night visit to the tomb, for we lived in fear
that unauthorized persons might enter it at night,
to wit, our Beduins. For they were not to be
persuaded from their conviction that it was a royal
tomb which would be filled full with treasure. One
morning we went over to the works, and Suliman
was the first to descend into the vault, where he had
begun to empty the adjacent catacomb. But almost
immediately he came up again and, pale and stammering,
said: “Effendi, there is an enormous snake
down there!” As the Druse in his excitement had
left his lantern in the vault, we lighted stearine
candles and went in with Suliman and Sheikh
Sadaui. The first narrow cleared space went
through the heaps of rubbish into the catacomb,
right and left of which the tomb chambers branched
off. My cousin crawled on his belly, the candle in
one hand, a nabüt in the other for defence, in case

the supposed king should actually appear. We
followed, and by the light of the lantern which
Suliman had left there we saw clearly on the
otherwise smooth ground a long serpentine track,
as if some one had dragged in. the dust a rope
a few inches thick. It vanished where the passage
became narrower, and so there was no doubt that
a snake was in question. The Beduins saw it in
the course of the following days, spoke of its
enormous size and fiery eyes, and were terrified
when we laughed at it. They declared with Sheikh
Sadaui that the animal was the ghost of the king,
and guarded the treasure; if we did not kill the
snake the enchantment would never be removed.
And as we did not bring the cunning sentinel of
the tomb into our power, they believed so, and
still continue to believe so. We made use of their
fantastic imaginings in so far that we assented, and
supported them with the observation that any one
entering the sacred chamber without our permission
or at night would come under the ban of the
subterranean king and must die.
As the work progressed, similar things occurred
in all parts of the ancient city, and especially whenever
it was a question of subterranean places, such
as tombs, cellars, and cisterns. According to the
season, the people when working underground
discarded all clothing.


During the proceedings for the discovery of the
tomb of Menas, if we may so name the high-lying
central sanctuaries of the city of Menas, and after
the discovery of the tomb of Menas, the basilica of
the tomb and the Arcadius basilica and the great
baptistery were discovered. Other important finds
we owed to a systematic study of the ground or
to chance.
As soon as it was possible Monsignor Kaufmann
and I, every day after work was ended and
checked, and the finds were delivered up and an
inventory made of them, took a ride to refresh
ourselves. The air was then clear and cool, and
on summer evenings a fresh breeze came from the
distant Mediterranean. As it took us an hour to
ride round the site of the ancient city, we were able
to learn a great deal. On horseback we could
sound the countless yellow mounds of rubbish of
the ancient city which spread far into the steppe,
and make sure of many buildings slumbering
beneath the ground. We were thus led to the
discovery of one of the basilicas situated in the
south-east periphery of the city, which served for a
little Beduin cemetery, and especially to that of the
south-west cemetery, the excavation of which was
postponed till later. It includes a portion of the
steppe to the south of the principal temple, notified
by numerous large depressions of from 4 to 8

yards in extent, in which vegetation was not
lacking. They were nothing else than tomb-chambers
that had fallen in. As such a system
of burial was not to be expected in that territory,
a fox of the desert was kind enough to draw our
attention to it. A workman pursuing a “taleb”
came, as he put it, on a burrow, and wanted to dig
the delicious roast meat out. He was delighted to
lay bare a staircase, delighted because such cases
meant extra backschish. The place was of course
sounded next day, and resulted in the discovery of
the first tomb chambers of the south cemetery.
The discovery of the north cemetery and the
large basilica connected with it also occurred in
a curious way: one evening an ancient Beduin
appeared with the offer to show us for a backschish
the spot where many years ago, when pitching his
tent, he had found a “dead man with a beautiful
gold ring.” We took him at his word, and the next
day began the work crowned with the greatest
Rowland Snelling, the editor and manager of the
most important English journal in the Nearer East,
the Egyptian Gazelle, coined the name the
“Marble City of Mariut” for the sacred city of
Karm Abu Mina, which he constantly visited. It
has as much right to that name as to the other title,
the Egyptian Lourdes. Marble was the precious

material which adorned all its splendid buildings:
the earth rendered up whole mountains of costly
island marble during the excavations; and if the
beauty of the ruins and of what the devastations
of Islam had left was to be admired, it had to
be remembered how much that was precious had
found its way or been dragged into the limekilns.
The sacred tomb already mentioned formed the
central point of all the splendour which caused the
most celebrated ancient chronicler of primitive
Christianity, the monk Epiphanius of Aschumneïn,
to exclaim: “Nothing in the region of the Nile
is to be compared with the temple of Menas in
Mareotis.” It dominates the whole of the city
of Menas with its buildings. In Monsignor
Kaufmann's guide to the excavations we read:
“Where the yellow mounds which lose themselves
in the desert rise up highest, there in the centre
of the city is the principal temple of Karm Abu
Mina. These heights give the best orientation for
the place. In the far west the low ridge of hills
of Abu Machlûf, which runs south into Wadi
Natrûn, stretches across the desert. On its slopes,
where we had constantly watched herds of gazelles,
lay the ruins of a well station of the ancient
caravan route and the remains of a country house.
Farther to the south ran the pilgrims' route to the
Nitrian Desert, the halting-places of which were

easy to follow. In the south-west we found the
ruins of the ancient basilica of Sidi Jadem, and the
old Median road of Schakâne. In the east the
Beduin grave temple of Sidi el-Fakir looked down
from the near eminence and showed the exact
route which led from Alexandria over the lost
Mareotic port Loxonetae and the city of Menas
to Barca, and between Amriah and el-Hamam
coincides with the modern caravan route. In the
ramifications of the ridge of hills lay villas and
farms of the Roman epoch. And lastly, in the
north, the plateau at the edge of the desert hides
the heights of Abusir and the sea.”
Two marble staircases led down into the tomb
of Menas—one from the Menas church itself, high-arched,
and of thirty steps 2 yards broad, and the
other from the Arcadius basilica. A crypto-porticus
5 yards higher and 16 yards longer to its
geniculum, with a coffered vault, led the way to
the tomb itself. In the uppermost thick pieces of
the walls, Simi, i.e., badges of Beduin tribes, are
inscribed, a sign that during their decay the ruins
must have served as places of refuge or hiding.
The tomb of Menas itself lies deep under the floor
of a Constantine basilica, and is in the shape of
a large hollow chamber, its lower parts architecturally
decorated, with a semicircular opening at
the top. From the upper church it is possible to

look directly into the saint's grave, to which lamps
and votive offerings of all sorts were brought. In
the Greek and Ethiopian lists of the miracles that
happened at this place, it is told how it was
necessary to descend under the ground in order
to carry the offerings to the saint. There Menas
revived a man killed by a crocodile who had been
dragged to the tomb; his voice sounded warning
in tone, unmasking the transgressor, and finally,
according to the legend, things happened that were
not to be expected in so holy a place. The lower
walls of the tomb were covered with the finest
marble. On the south, over the grave itself, stood
the celebrated large relief already described, of
4 square yards in size: Menas as a Roman warrior,
praying, and at each side a camel at rest, as an
image of the desert and of Egypt, as the patron
of which he was honoured. There was also a
little chapel with a cupola decorated with gold
mosaics, the ruins of which showed everywhere
traces of burning, and then again a catacomb with
its graves.
All this was below the foundation of the oldest
Menas church, the basilica consecrated in the time
of Constantine by Athanasius the Great, and built
of limestone. It has three aisles, with a triple
choir-end, and is in its whole extent somewhat
more than 22 yards broad by 38 long. The altar,



the frame of which is still to be seen, stands exactly
in the east, immediately over the saint's grave, so
that we are reminded of the Confessio, the apostle's
grave in St. Peter's at Rome. Only the grave
of Menas is very much deeper, down than the
last resting-place of the fisherman of Lake Gennesareth.
In the west aisle of the Constantine
Menas church a deep shaft just behind the catacomb
leads down to the holy well, of which we
shall speak later.
The Constantine temple, having become too small,
must have been early enlarged by the addition of
an enormous building, the basilica of the Emperor
Arcadius, an immediate continuation of the original
church on the eastern side. There began, as described
above, the principal burial-places, and the
magnificent building of the Arcadius basilica has
not wrongly been compared to St. Paul's Church
(outside the gates) at Rome. It belongs to the
same period. The roof is supported by fifty-six
lofty marble columns, the sockets of which are still
to be seen, while many of the pillar-drums lie
broken on the ground, where they are partly
hidden in the beautiful incrustation. According to
Kaufmann, there is nowhere to be found in such
perfection the type of an early Christian basilica
as at Karm Abu Mina. The Arcadius basilica has
three aisles and a projecting choir-end, in front of

which is a strikingly large transept. The fine
building is nearly 60 yards long, over 26 yards,
and in the transept 50 yards, wide. The canopied
altar is not in the apsis, under which many tomb
chambers extend, but in the middle of the transept.
It is surrounded by the lattice-work of the choristers'
platform (scola cantorum), and directly behind are
semicircular misereres (seats for the priests), over
which at a special cathedra the abbot of the Menas
monks presided.
Among the excavated subsidiary buildings of the
Arcadius basilica the large cellars, chambers, and
vaults must be mentioned, but especially the fine
hall for the pilgrims as they arrived—the south
atrium. Many of the beautiful marble capitals
and such finds which were made here now adorn
the Art Gallery at Frankfort.
The Menas basilica received a second extension
on the west in the form of a fine baptistery of its
own. Its ruins were from 12 to 14 yards high, and
the work there was carried on with constant danger
to life. The monumental baptistery is a central
building, square outside, octagonal within, reminding
us of similar architectural work at Ravenna and
in ancient Byzantium. “Among the ecclesiastical
buildings in Egypt and Nubia, which number nearly
one thousand, the temple of Menas alone had as
part of it an independent baptistery.” It measured

26 by 25 yards. In the floor of the middle cupola
a small flight of steps led down into the circular
marble piscina. The baptism was carried out, in
accordance with the custom of the early Christians,
by dipping under and standing in the water, and
confirmation immediately followed in a neighbouring
pillared room, the consignatorium.
Monsignor Kaufmann has shown, in the various
archaeological publications concerning our expedition,
how little the praise of the temple of Menas
was exaggerated; how, except Jerusalem, no other
sanctuary of the early Christian East can compete
in romance and mystery with the pilgrim city of the
desert. He alludes to the filial churches which
grew out of this one everywhere in Egypt, Greece,
and the Roman Empire, and were held in solemn
honour, and shows the threads and connections
between the sanctuary and the then known
civilized countries, from the Blue Nile and Central
Africa to Gaul, Germany, and Russia. Finally, he
traces the history of the sanctuary of Menas, that
for almost seven hundred years was like an enchanted
fata Morgana of white marble, the pride
of the Libyan landscape. Under the Emperors
Constantine, Theodosius I, and Arcadius, the
buildings in the city of Menas quickly increased.
The foundationary epoch of the fourth century was
followed by the building of the sacred city in the

fifth century under Emperor Zeno of Byzantium.
That period was the zenith of the pilgrimages of
the Menas worship, and lasted on into the sixth
century. In the seventh century the first signs
of retrogression became visible: the hordes of
Islam appeared on the banks of the Nile, and their
cruel rage exceeded everything that the Egyptian
early Christians had had to endure from the Roman
Many reminders of those times of decay and
oppression were to be met in a walk through the
ruins of the excavated city. Elaborately carved
and greatly destroyed crosses and monograms
showed the track of the marauder; later wall
supports at prominent points proved that the costly
building material had been carried away; and, in
fact, the Caliphs had not disdained to enrich themselves
there. From the monumental remains
Monsignor Kaufmann was able to prove the
robbery of pillars by the Caliph El-Mutiwekil.
“Even now the repairs and supports may be seen
with which the protesting Patriarch (the Jacobite
Patriarch Joseph, 837—49) sought to repair the
damage.” A few years after this robbery the Mussulman
governor, Achmed ibn Dinar, used a murder
which had happened during the Menas festival in
the temple of the city of Menas as a means for
fresh depredations, this time on the treasure of the

temple. It seems to have given rise to the last
destruction of the sanctuaries, which declined about
the middle of the ninth century.
“If in regard to its traditionary sources and
to those furnished by the excavations the great
baptistery of the city of Menas is unique in its
kind in the land of the Nile, it may be said of
the convents that the early Christian world has
not known their like. Together with the sanctuaries
the buildings covered a space of more
than 40,000 square yards.” It is with those
words that the second archaeological report
of the work of excavation announces the discovery
of the Menas convents, the great monasteries
in the immediate neighbourhood of the
principal temple. The inhabitants of these buildings
had charge of divine worship in the whole
district, as well as in the national church, looked
after the pilgrims and the sick who came to be
healed, and cultivated the entire region, which
was then an oasis rich in vines and palms. We
excavated the great portico of the monastery, the
cell corridors, the halls and refectories, store-chambers,
laundries, and steward's rooms of the
most varied designations.
On the other hand, we were not able, unfortunately,
to attack the pilgrim hospices or Xenodochia,
which lie between the monasteries and

a further characteristic sanctuary of the city of
Menas, the bath of Menas.
The discovery of the bath of Menas and its
basilica occurred at the end of the systematic
excavation in the summer of 1907. It formed the
brilliant conclusion of the great find, and perfectly
rounded off the picture we had gained of the
ancient pilgrim city. The foundation lines of
extensive baths had been laid open earlier, but
only now was the close connection of the baths
with a further basilica established. By the side
of a pilgrim's pool, with a surface of 150 square
yards, and a large deep cistern built of freestone
(all, of course, had long been without water),
the baths of Menas were bounded by a
region under which the imperial citadel of Zeno
of Byzantium is to be sought. The basilica
offers the fourth type of the early Christian
churches discovered at Karm Abu Mina. It has
three aisles, terminated at both ends in a semicircle.
The first baths are in the wall of the
south aisle—semicircular baths with one step, with
the waste hole inside, and square baths. From
the south aisle a door led into other bathrooms,
cells, waiting-rooms, rooms of all kinds, among
which a ramified system of hypocausts and heating
cellars was dug out. The pipes had supplied
the Beduins of former centuries with material for

bullets. In all the rooms we found water vessels
and Menas ampullae with invocations to the saint.
But the most remarkable were two marble depressions
in the principal aisle of the Menas basilica.
They led up a step to dippers' stands, from which
the pilgrims, as to-day at Lourdes, drew the healing
water, whether for their sick on the spot or
to take home with them. Archaeological finds in
nearly all civilized countries show how far the
Menas water in the ampullae travelled. The canals
which fed the stands are still extant. They lead
directly to the holy spring which I have mentioned
in the west part of the Constantine tomb
church, and near it came to light the Greek inscription
of a pilgrim from Smyrna, in Asia Minor:
“Take the beautiful water of Menas and pain
gives way!”
Monsignor Kaufmann's father, Herr Heinrich
Kaufmann of Frankfort-on-Main, was the chief
and most persevering helper, not only of the expedition
in the desert but also of the excavations.
Without the eager idealism of this man, who had
grown old in a generous and lifelong sacrifice to
work, the great problems would have been insoluble,
and if two other men—men of the importance of
a Bode and an Adickes—had not come to the
assistance of the two excavators, all would have
been ruined. I have already told how Dr. Bode

became the sponsor of the excavations. The
Oberbürgermeister of Frankfort, Dr. Franz
Adickes, an art connoisseur, provided more, and
Frankfort did not leave the desert in the lurch.
It is only thanks to the subvention of his native
town and its learned institutions that Monsignor
Kaufmann was able to carry out his undertaking.
But it was not always easy to raise money, and
I could tell by my cousin's face when funds
were scanty. And that was often the case. The
outsider might have noticed this by the number
of the workmen, which sometimes came to be
very small, and then would rise to a hundred
and more. Many a Beduin suffered as much by
these variations as the two Effendis.
One of our people, long after our return, when
a hundred cases full of marbles and things we
had found had been dispatched to Frankfort,
wrote a long letter asking, among other questions,
what the Melek of Frankfort, King Adickes,
was going to do with all the stones, which seemed
to have a quite peculiar value for the Franks.
Was he going to build a house with them?
We owed also to Dr. Bode's intervention prompt
help in a diplomatic matter which almost brought
the excavations into danger. After the works in
the sacred city had been going on for some time, the
Italian Government found it convenient to protest


to the Foreign Office against our first project,
the aim of which had been Cyrenaïca. They
seemed to fear that the two German excavators
would now attempt, from Egyptian territory, to
penetrate into the Italian “reservation” in Turkish
Barca, and had evidently no idea of our harmlessness.
But other nations have in the course of the
last ten years so much justified mistrust of them
in the East that no one is any longer believed,
and we were not surprised when serious-minded
people suspected us as German officers, or if some
of the Arabs, possessing to their disadvantage a
veneer of civilization, denounced Monsignor Kaufmann
because he was signalling with lights at
night from the tower of the excavation buildings
to a German man-of-war which was often to be
seen at Abusir. The signalling did actually go
on, but it was directed to the author of this
book when he was expected back from a journey
to Alexandria late in the evening, and furnished,
on nights when the moon was young, good
guidance for- him and his Beduin escort.

[Back to top]



The only real Arabs of Egypt—The Auladali and their branches
—A German Christian boy the ancestor of the Senagra—
Coast region, Gebel, oasis region—Caravan routes—The
Dherb el-Hagg—Oasis routes—The land in ancient times
—At the Gulf of Sollum—The Khedive's new railway—The
Lake of Mariut—A ride along the dam at Orkan—From Bab
el-Arab to Bahig, the station for the ruins of the city of
Menas—To the future terminus of the railway at Mirsa
Matru—The former capital of Marmarika.

THE Beduins with whom we preferred to have to
do during the excavations of the city of Menas,
and who formed the largest contingent of the
workmen, were Auladali, and belonged to the
great nomadic tribe which ruled the whole of
the north-east portion of the Libyan Desert from
Alexandria to Barca, and in the south from Moghara
to the district of the Great Pyramids. Uled-Ali
means something like Children of Ali, their
ancestor, who once went westward from the southern
slopes of the Dschebel Achdar (Barca) in order

to obtain better hunting grounds, and whose tribe
gradually took possession of the whole of the desert
west of the delta of the Nile, and only stopped
before the gates of Alexandria.
Rohlfs designates the Auladali as “the only real
nomadic Arabs of the Egyptian Empire.” They
alone possess, according to him, all the attributes
and characteristics of the true Arab of the real
unmixed type. They alone are “as if they had
come over from their peninsula,” proud in bearing,
muscular in body and perfect in form, with
a physiognomy in which bold shining eyes, a nose
large and not too hooked, a sharp chin and full
lips play a part.
This real Beduin race differ as strikingly from
the other types of Egyptian Beduins as their
animals do. What a contrast between the noble,
hairy camel of the Auladali, which for months
together is content with the nourishment afforded
by the scanty spring vegetation, and for the rest
of the year makes no demands whatever except
for drink every four or five days, and the hairless
animal of Upper Egypt, the “bean-eater,”
which seems to belong to an entirely different
The Auladali themselves are divided into the real
(Auladali Horr), holy (Auladali Marabtîn), and
slaves (Auladali Abîde). The real are again sub-divided

into the red, the white, and the Snêne,
and each of these divisions again consists of different-divided
Kabyles. The Marabtîn are not descended
from the Patriarch Ali, but from a saint (Chêch),
and hence are called holy. Among their thirteen
Kabyles or clans the Schuâbi in Wadi
Natrûn should be mentioned. In the third line
are the Abîde, mostly slaves of the Marabtîn,
who, so far as they live on Egyptian ground,
now count as freedmen, but live, in fact, in
conditions of voluntary dependence.
As at the migration of the Auladali from the
hinterland of Barca skirmishes and disputes played
a large part on account of “spheres of interest,”
the descendants of Ali and his wife Saïde regard
the Tripoli Beduins as their sworn enemies, and
especially their immediate neighbours in the Barca,
the Harâbi, Brassa, and Aaugîr. But the Auladali
are hostile to other tribes, even in distant
parts, and quarrels easily arise when large caravans
from such districts venture for any reason
into the desert of Western Egypt. They break
out against their neighbours mostly in predatory
raids, so that detachments of troops are stationed
on the Turkish frontier at Sollum and on the
Egyptian at Bomba, the valuable booty often
consisting of hundreds of camels.
I have described in greater detail in my book

“Beduin Songs” how the chief tribes of the
Auladali are divided into Kabyles and each Kabyle
into single families called Aïd (Ailed) or Bet, i.e.,
house, in the sense of tent. To give an example
here, let us take the Kabyle of the Hawâra, who
spread over almost the whole of the coast region
west and east of Alexandria and there play a
special rôle. They belong to the Auladali Marabtîn,
and in case of war side with the Araûe (Hawâra
Hasib el Araûe). Their tents are to be found
along the Khedivial desert railway from Dechêle
and Abd el-Kader to beyond Bahig, between
Ramleh and Abukir, at Kafr el-Duar, and at the
edge of the delta, and in Wadi Natrûn. Their
chief families (Aîd) are called: Id, el-Hauwel, Abu'l
Dea, el Leban, Ibrahim, el Moeni, Bu eschêge,
Lebett, Bu chseiem, Abubaker, Schaber, Forscha,
Eschesch, Akêer, Süra, Bu sabu, Bu achmed,
Sâlem, Adeïne, and as twentieth the Aïd Bu Aschêl.
I shall speak later of the great patron of the
Hawâra, Sidi 'Aun. Their badge—all Beduin
tribes have a Simi—is

. It is, for example,
branded on the camel so that the parallel lines run
on the left foot above the ankle, the first stroke of
the following sign from the ear to the lower jaw,
the other from the lower jaw to the nostril, and the
small line from the nose to the upper lip. There
are, of course, lower divisions of the Aïd, which

mostly consist of a few tents, and change. In 1908
there were the following thirteen small families:
Mohammed, Hamed, Gassem, Salem, Chalîl,
Schibrîn, Emdana, Ehse, Mohammed II, Lâfi,
Athman, Drîs, Esbêde.
It would only fatigue the reader if I went in
detail into the other Kabyles and their divisions,
but a tradition that is widely disseminated among
a whole region of the Auladali must be mentioned,
which relates to the Kabyle of the Senagra, a family
of the Auladali abiad, the name of which is connected
with a German foundling. It is told that
a boy named Singer was the only creature saved
alive from a shipwreck in the neighbourhood of
Cyrenaïca. The Christian child adopted the
manners and customs of the Beduins, married,
and so became the ancestor of one of the most
distinguished families.
In my estimation the whole tribe of the Auladali
could have easily furnished six thousand armed
horsemen, taking into account the entire Libyan
coast plateau west of the delta of the Nile. Yet
these Beduins, although for decades they have
been forced to submit to the government of the
Khedive, are exempt from taxation and military
burdens. The English occupiers have frequently
considered a plan of imposing military service on
the Beduins, but they will only succeed in so doing

when the Auladali Desert is no longer a desert but
fertile land, as it was for the greater part two
thousand years ago. Very significant of the
suspicion that holds in this respect was the attempt
at a census of the Beduins in connection with the
census of the Egyptians during the excavations in
1907. The news spread like lightning that by that
means it was sought to know the men capable of
bearing arms. One tent after another disappeared
in the night from our workmen's colony, and as we
heard and saw everywhere in the desert, they only
reappeared when the census officers and their
armed escort had departed. It was only in the coast
region that they could in some measure be counted,
for there, on account of the Khedivial railway, the
police exercised a certain control. We often discussed
with English and Egyptian officers the
view that such attempts, which meet with difficulty
even among the fellahs, simply contribute to the
decrease of the nomad population that is in no
way so ripe for civilization as people are inclined
to believe. The spirit of independence is much too
deeply ingrained in the Auladali. Men who from
their boyhood only hear of the liberty, the deeds of
war and plunder of their fathers; who would rather
see their loved ones die than seek a European
doctor, or deliver their enemy to the power of
European laws; who for ages have had to defend

the barren ground of the desert against stranger
tribes in the west and south, against white men and
brown-skinned men in the Nile valley—such free-lances
cannot be approached with the doubtful
benefits and the shackles of our civilization without
making them in the highest degree mistrustful, even
hostile. They fall back step by step from such an
approach, and with each step their ancient traditions
gain in their eyes in depth and importance.
Only a few decades ago it depended on their
favour whether a European or any one else dared
venture beyond the environs of the town of
Alexandria. The great salt lake lies between the
ancient city of the Ptolemies and the desert. They
had control over every one who came into the
district of Mariut, and they exercised that control
in a noble manner. Whoever did not attack their
caravans, their possessions, their rights of convoy,
was their guest. But they did not look with favour
on a European traveller who undertook a big
expedition. Almost all earlier explorers testify to
that fact. Even Arab sources mention the dangers
that threatened in those “ill-famed” districts. The
Prussian General, Freiherr Heinrich von Minutoli,
experienced in the Auladali Desert, which he entered
with great hopes, chicanery and obstacles in
abundance, and Heinrich Barth, the explorer of
the northern coast of Africa, barely escaped with


his life in an attack during the descent of the Katabathmos
The district inhabited by the Auladali Beduins
may be divided into three large zones. First, the
coast zone, including the line of the desert railway
now in course of construction. It is on an average
two or three miles broad, and alternates between
low hills and plain. Nummulite limestone rocks
are characteristic of the higher ground of the coast
region. Ancient stone bridges at Amriah and Bahig
show where the ancients procured the building
material for their settlements in the province of
Mareotis (Nomos mareoticus). Thus the fine
buildings of the city of Menas, when imported marble
was not employed, are of nummulite limestone.
The shore in the Mareotic district is flat throughout,
although limestone shows through the shifting sand
of the dunes. Almost unperceived the land melts
into the hattje, where a few palm gardens and wells
are situated, while the ridges of hills only show
vegetation in the spring. The southern part of the
coast zone is low land that is flooded like a lake in
winter. Dr. Wilhelm Junker was the first scientific
explorer of the coast district of Mariut in 1875.
Pacho, whom we have often named, had travelled
the neighbourhood earlier and described it in connection
with Marmarika. For the latter the journeys
of Barth and Minutoli are the most important. In

the Marmarika district, and especially towards
Turkish Barca, the rocks and ravines were higher
and more romantic; they sometimes contained
ancient tomb chambers and there were traces of
ancient fortifications on their summits. The whole
of the coast zone is still pre-eminently the best
settled, and the most fertile and most productive in
Marmarika, while the Mariut portions begin a fresh
development and leave a dreary impression on any
one who traverses them on the Khedivial railway.
The second zone is the desert itself, and is called
by the natives Dschebel, i.e., mountains. It comprises
the Libyan tableland to the girdle of oases.
The oases themselves form the third characteristic
zone that extends from the west to the east of
Dscharabub by Siwa to Gerah, Gatara, and
Moghara, and then over Wadi Faregh and the
southern spurs of the Natrûn valley to the district
of the Great Pyramids of Ghizeh. While the
character of the third zone, the oasis region, is
sufficiently known by what I have here written
about Amonium, Moghara, and Wadi Natrûn, a
word about the central zone, the Dschebel (Gebel),
will be in order. Every one now knows that the
desert in general is not an enormous plain full
of sandy dunes. The Auladali Desert is composed
of mountains and valleys, plains of sand and stones,
boulders, and mud flats. The Auladali themselves

make a careful distinction between the desert where
there is vegetation, or steppes (hattje, retûbe),
the desert of small stones with vegetation (serir),
with large stones (hamada), the sandy desert
(raml), and the red earth (hamraje, daffa), the
terrible bouldery desert without vegetation. The
lower ground of the Libyan plateau consists of
limestone, and the bold statement has been advanced
that the sandy hills and dunes resting on
it are deposits of the great Sahara, that always
extended itself in that way. I think it is Professor
Zittel's theory, and for my own part it seems not
at all improbable. In the district of the city of
Menas we constantly had sandstorms, which
brought from miles away the fine dust of the
desert, tiny quartz crystals, and sand-corn. After
such a burning chamsîn that lasted for two days
the whole of the excavations were covered with
fine sand about 1/100 inch in thickness, and in wells
and depressions as much as 4 inches. The sand
and stony desert is the most dangerous and most
to be avoided, for nothing reflects heat like sand,
and nothing is so powerful in its effect as moving
sand crystals on exposed ground.
Remarkable rock forms and pillars provide the
Beduins with landmarks, especially where the
changing dunes in a short time easily alter the appearance
of the landscape. Otherwise the Beduins

help themselves by setting up an alâm, or signpost,
generally a construction of stones or a log
set upright. In the clear air such signs, even
if only a camel's skull, are visible at a very great
distance. We erected on the Alexander route
between Mirsa Matru and the Siwa oasis a big
alâm in honour of the Khedive (alâm Effendine)
near a hollowed-out stone, in which every one who
had any superfluity of water left some, well covered
over, for those who came after.
The caravan routes by means of which the desert
is traversed are of the utmost importance. In the
steppe region they are sometimes to be recognized
from their road-like character, but we must not
think of a single beaten path, but of a mass of
paths which in places where the ground permits—
in ravines, for instance—join together. The most
important caravan route of the Auladali region is
the Derb el-Hagg el Maghrabe, “the road of the
west Mecca pilgrims.” It was known in ancient
times as a much-frequented caravan route which
led from Egypt to the land of the lotus-eaters
(Lotophagi). That people dwelt on the north
coast of Libya in the neighbourhood of the
Little Syrte, where to-day a kind of dish is
prepared with the lotos, that grows there luxuriantly.
The present pilgrim route was and is
chosen by persons who make the pilgrimage from

North Africa, Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli
by Egypt to the Hedschas. It runs nearly along
the coast till its point of junction in Hamam.
Thence go those which touch Masr (Cairo), south-east
through the Natrûn valley, and others by
the ruins of the city of Menas (now along the
railway) to Alexandria. I have even met German
workmen who in European dress chose these
routes, fed in Beduin tents, and joined on to
caravans. “They see there's nothing to be got
from us,” said a young German whom I met at
the ruins of Abusir. That is quite the right view.
He who travels in those districts without baggage
and fuss has only need to fear if he disguises himself:
I mean if he adopts Arab dress without
having more than a superficial acquaintance with
the Arab tongue, manners, and customs. Persons
who thus represent themselves as Arabs, at least
west of Mariut and away from the railway, risk life
and limb.
That the Derb el-Hagg still has importance as
an international oasis route, as the principal route
between west and east, we were in a position to
observe for nearly two years. Those who have
money or can procure it from relatives prefer the
cheap steerage accommodation of the coasting
vessels. But for near communication and for trade
the land route is almost exclusively used. So that

annually, with thousands of camels, great caravans
of flocks of sheep are brought from Barca to
Marmarika and Mariut, where the Auladali act as
I have already alluded, to the fact that communication
between the oases of the north-east
corner of the Libyan Desert lies wholly in the hands
of the Auladali. The most important caravans ply
between the oases Siwa, Bachrije, and sometimes
to Farafra. The Senussi monks have in the course
of the last ten years successfully extended the trade
routes to the oasis of Dscharabub.
The principal route of the Siwa caravans is in
no way the Sultan's route, which the viceregal
expedition of 1906 took, and of which I shall speak
in Chapter IX. They go rather from Amriah
(Mariut) through the region of the city of Menas,
over the pass baptized Bab-Frankenfurt to Wadi
Moghara, and thence through Gara to the Siwa
oasis. The reason why this route had for centuries
carried on the date trade with the oasis was that
the coast and district of Marmarika were shunned.
The Auladali feared neither enemies nor robbers in
the desert itself. I have shown in my book, “Siwa,
the Oasis of the Sun-god,” that there are a number
of caravan routes to Amonium.
Moghara, then, is a thoroughfare of the route
to the southern oases of Egypt, while the Natrûn

valley is, as before, the junction for the routes
running from Cairo and the Great Pyramids to the
western desert. In olden times the little town of
Terraneh, situated more to the north, took the
place of Cairo. This ancient pilgrims' way is as
forsaken now as that from the city of Menas
through the Natrûn valley to Alexandria, a route
trodden by thousands whose traces were successfully
confirmed by our expedition.
Over the whole of the Mariut Desert are scattered
ruins of old caravanserais and wells, some with
traces of fortifications, and once doubtless provided
with a garrison to protect them. In the second
volume of his work on Menas, the leader of the
expedition hopes to publish a map which will show
these and other ancient ruins in the provinces of
Mareotis and Marmarika. The ancient settlement
of the region began, of course, from the shores of
the Mediterranean. We counted more than a
hundred settlements of Roman and Arab times,
among them eight ruined towns within a wide
coast zone in the province of Mareotis alone. The
town of Marea, on the Lake of Mariut, which gave
the name to the province, now surrounded by the
lake, is not to be identified with the little heap of
ruins attributed to it on the south bank, and was
still standing far on into the Middle Ages, famous
for its trade in fruit and grain. It possessed a

mosque, a landing-pier, and a ruined Kasr, perhaps
an Egyptian temple. H. Brugsch has proved that
it was standing in the time of the Pharaohs. But
the whole of the Auladali Desert seems to have
been settled in ancient Egyptian times. Scarabaei
and cylinders are found far in the desert, and
especially in the Kom, at the edge of the desert.
Larger buildings of Pharaonic times have seldom
been preserved above ground. Near the city of
Menas, at Gerbanieh, the granite columns of a
temple were found, above which at Abusir
(Taposiris Magna), situated on the sea, the walls
of a lighthouse, “tower of the Arabs,” are still
standing, and a few yards away are the ruins of a
temple 90 yards long. That the ancient Apis
metropolis of Mariut still awaits discovery rests
on information from the Beduins, who found a large
stone cow, but covered it up again through fear
and would not betray its hiding-place to us. In
the Middle Ages the settlement of the whole
district west of Alexandria had fallen into decay,
and the ruins of towns that can be identified are
Kobii, between Abusir and Alexandria on the
sea, Halmyrae (Almaida), Alexandri Castra, that
Monsignor Kaufmann connects with the ruins of
Haschm-el-Aisch explored by the expedition,1 and
in the immediate neighbourhood, Menokaminos
1 See Chapter III.



(El-Hamam). More easily traceable are the
mounds of ruins of the town Paraetonium or
Amonia, in the ancient nome abutting on ancient
Marmarika, which was the starting-point for the
oracle of Jupiter-Amon and a much frequented
port. Of the oases of the interior of Marmarika
there were besides Siwa, El-Gara and Dscharabub,
which now belong to the Egyptian region, the
large oasis Audschile (Augila), in the Turkish portion
of the Libyan Desert. This oasis was in the
possession of the tribe of the Nasamones, who,
according to Herodotus, had a special kind of
hero-worship connected with incubation, had
their wives in common, and among other peculiarities
considered powdered locusts with milk a
Near Paraetonium, the present Mirsa Matru, is
the Little Katabathmos, a mountain pass so called
in contrast to the Great Katabathmos. It was a
more important and more beautifully situated
mountain pass, or more properly a descent from
the rocky tableland to the district of the present
Sollum, also in the frontier region of Cyrenaïca.
There was a time when it was regarded - not only
as a boundary between two countries but as the way
down from Africa to Asia. Both the Katabathmos
now bear the name Akaba, the Beduin Agûbe.
From the Gulf of Sollum the route leads to the

highroad of Agûbe el-Kebîr, to the port Mirsa
Matru, and to that of Agûbe el-Zuraîr.
The ruling Khedive of Egypt has tried in the
widest sense of the word to modernize the old
caravan routes to the Lotophagi and the routes
of the Hedscha pilgrims. One of his greatest, and
as he thought the most fruitful of his projects, was
the construction of a railway line through the
Mariut Desert and into Marmarika, if possible, as
far as the Turkish boundary. He imagined a
North-Western Railway, the lightning express
which would connect Alexandria with one of the
ports to be built on the Gulf of Sollum, and
shorten the sea route to Central Europe by nearly
two days. Sollum would have been the ideal
terminus for such a railway, especially in a commercial
sense. I just touched that beautiful district
of Northern Egypt in 1907, when with a small
caravan I undertook a fruitless journey into the
oasis Dscharabub. The large fine gulf named in
the Catalan map of 1375 Porto Rio Soloma presents
scenery that is unforgettable. In fine weather
the island of Crete can be seen from the heights
shimmering in the far distance. Ancient remains are
not far to seek both in the gulf itself and in the
surrounding district. The ancient landmarks of
the Kasr Dschedîd are characteristic of the “new
castle,” a Roman fortress on the Turkish side above

the slopes of the fertile Wadi Dafne, and of the
Kasr el-Adschebia on the edge of the plateau of
the Egyptian Agûbe. The scanty ruins of Kasr
el-Adschebia mark a Roman castellum that controlled
the great, still used north-west caravan route,
to the oasis Dscharabub and Siwa and to the
entrance to Cyrenaïca.
The strategic importance of the whole district of
Sollum has not escaped the Turkish rulers, and it
is certain that Egypt, which had to fight for its
frontier on the eastern desert and in the district of
Sinai, will have a similar contest in the west when
the importance that the sphere of interest in the
Gulf of Sollum has for the land of the Nile is
better realized. In order to postpone that time,
Lord Cromer opposed the carrying of the Khedivial
railway to that point of the country. When I went
to the shores of the Gulf of Sollum the Turks were
busy improving their position by strengthening the
frontier forts. The commander of the frontier
troops had at his disposal some hundred men who
were armed in the best fashion, but lacked their
pay. Egypt was then on the point of placing its
fortified boundary farther west at -Sidi Barani, about
40 miles from the Turkish posts. I cannot say
whether the coastguard administration, the officials
of which always gave me a kind reception, had in
the course of the last three years pushed their

station farther east. In any case, Sidi Barani is, in
respect to Sollum, a quite subordinate point, and
has no possibilities for a good harbour. And in
addition it would be very difficult in so distant a
spot to prevent the plundering raids of the Barca
Beduins, the Harabi, Agari and Brassa. For
instance, towards the end of our excavations in the
city of Menas 150 camels were taken from the
Auladali, and although a strong corps of Sudanese
recovered the booty from the robbers and Egypt
took the law into its own hands, difficulties occurred
from Cairo with the Pasha of Bengasi, and the
Auladali never set eyes on their property again.
And more, the blood-feud between the respective
tribes plays an important part in these frontier
I have often mentioned the railway which Abbas
Hilmi II has been constructing for several years at
the cost of his Daïra Khassa through the western
desert into the heart of the coast region of
Marmarika. His next project—and so long as
England rules in Egypt, his last—is the new
flourishing Mirsa Matru. A fine station at
Wardian, in sight of the new west harbour of
Alexandria, forms the principal station of the vice-regal
line, and was built from the plans of Gustav
Kayser, the chief engineer. To Herr Kayser, who
was always helpful and sympathetic in respect of

our expedition, the Viceroy owes much in the most
difficult period of his undertaking. The mapping
out and surveying of the line is for the most part
his work. German material was everywhere employed,
and the lately installed semaphore plant is
of German origin. I clearly saw that the Khedive
builds “on the cheap.” He commanded native
soldiers to be employed in the desert, but in no
way earned their gratitude since, and it says much
for Egypt, they longed to be back in barracks.
From Wardian the line goes through the limestone
quarries of Mex and thence direct to the Lake of
Mareotis, to the Beheret Mariut. That lake, once
feared by the pilgrims to the temple of Menas on
account of the immense quantity of crocodiles, is
now more peaceful. It forms the frontier of the
western desert, and extends so far to the south
that the other shore is scarcely visible. In ancient
times beautiful villas adorned its banks, the shipping,
by reason of the Nile canals, was constant and
busy, and the most precious crops flourished on its
shores. I have spoken above of Marea, the town
of the lake which gave it and the surrounding
country its name, and is now covered by the waters
of the Mediterranean to the depth of 2 1/2 yards.
Many battles were fought on its banks, and one
of the most terrible events in the modern history
of Egypt is connected with the eastern half of

the lake basin, which in the Middle Ages was dry.
When the English were besieging Alexandria in
1801, they pierced the chain of dunes from Abukir
and let the sea rush in over the land, so that thousands
of people were drowned, and one hundred and
fifty towns and villages swallowed up by the waves.
Mohammed Ali tried to save what was left; he
built canals and dams, but even to-day more than
80,000 acres of cultivable land is covered by
the sea.
The new line crosses the lake on a narrow dam,
only a few yards wide, just sufficient to take the
permanent way and the telegraph poles. On
the south it is washed by the calm waters of the
Beheret Mariut, on the north by the salt lake of
Mex, and the firm salt crust which forms its shore
is the ordinary road for the Beduins who go on
foot. Thousands of flamingoes inhabit the Lake
of Mariut, while death-like stillness prevails on
the salt lake, which according to the season is
either blood-red or shimmering white, with its
snow and ice covering. I just spoke of the still
waters of the great lake. But they can, as in
ancient days, be wild and stormy. Monsignor
and I once came to their banks in a heavy storm,
and rode for our very lives. That was at the
beginning of the excavations.
We had been at Amriah and wanted to return

to Alexandria, but did not wish to wait for the
only train of the Khedivial line, which did not start
until the evening. We were warned at Amriah
that a storm was coming up. But we hoped to get
home dry, and were glad to procure two horses,
which we promised to leave in a stable at Mex.
When we were an hour from the lake the sluice
gates of the storm burst open. We galloped right
into it. We rode along the railway dam against
the foe: the rain resembled waterfalls hitting our
faces; now and then there were flashes of lightning
which made the horses rear, and they struggled with
difficulty against the tempest. It was fortunate that
we were wearing mackintoshes and could thus keep
our revolvers dry. Even in such an uncomfortable
plight we were amused at the way in which our
pockets and our boots filled with water. Near the
lake we had to leave the railway, the lines of which
were possibly under water, and ride across the
ridges of stony hills. We had often taken this
route on donkeys and so were acquainted with
the ground.
But, notwithstanding, having reached the top we
missed the right way down, and sought to go along
the shore of the salt lake to the dam. Usually the
shore is half salt crust and half morass. I believe,
as the gusts of rain made it impossible to see, the
horses only found the right path by instinct. One

false step might have been fatal, so we preferred to
dismount and test ourselves the suspicious ground.
At last, near a forsaken half-ruined custom-house, we
reached the dam across the lake. Meanwhile it had
grown darker, and the storm had attained its greatest
fury. To wait until it had subsided was not to be
thought of, since it would have meant hours, if not
days. As the salt crust of the Lake of Mex gave
way and was impassable, we led the horses up to
the high dam and mounted. The waters of the
Beheret Mariut broke loudly below us.
Our brave beasts quickly became accustomed to
the situation, even under the impression of danger
in walking between the lines over the sleepers. At
first it was something like an egg dance on horseback,
and we had moments of anguish and terror
when a hoof went into the water, which we rather
felt than heard. The roaring of the wind and beating
of the waves sounded in our ears like wild
music. At last we came into a heavy tramp and
strained every muscle to compel the creatures to
our will. We had reached the middle of this
strange road when my cousin, who was in front,
reined in his horse. I thought there must be persons
coming towards us, and I pictured how difficult it
would be to pass if they were horsemen. The wind
and rain howled and clattered round us so that it
seemed impossible to hear each other speak. At

last I made out that my cousin wanted to know the
time. “Did you hear anything?” he asked; “I am
thinking of the evening train.” Terror seized me.
I sought in vain to read the big figures on the dial
of my watch. It was too dark, and heavy drops
covered it. Then we listened for a time on the
west and occasionally heard a regular rolling. There
was no time for lengthy discussion. Either we
must climb down the steep slope to the salt crust
with the horses, a proceeding fraught with direct
danger to men and beasts, or we must risk a race
and reach our goal before the train, which went
slowly. The horses seemed to understand the decision.
We rode one behind the other, at first in a
slow step, then quicker and quicker. The excitement
and the fatiguing ride made us perspire, and
the water streaming from the sky was like a precious
salve to our hot faces. If only neither horseman
nor foot-passenger approached us from the other
side! Listen! did not that sound like a whistle, a
long-drawn-out distant call of the engine? But our
courage increased with the growing danger. Horses
and riders flew for their lives, and at last reached
the place where the dam widens out: we were
We stopped, standing close together, and congratulated
ourselves. But no train was yet in sight.
We must have been mistaken, and all we heard was

the rolling of the surge induced by the storm. Then
suddenly a faint light appeared on the Beheret
Mariut; it slowly increased and then doubled itself.
A few minutes after, at a very moderate pace,
the Khedivial train passed: the windows of the
lighted carriages were dripping; we thought we
could distinguish people inside. But it is certain
that none of them thought of the two horsemen
who, veiled by the darkness of the storm, let the
shadows pass by and stood dumb and silent at
Before the construction of the dam, almost a mile
long, which divides the Lake of Mariut and the
salt lake (Mellaha), the district of Mareotis was
reached, across the narrow tongue of Mex, and
the gate of Mex is therefore still called Bab el-Arab
(Arab Gate). The first station on the Khedivial
railway after crossing the dam is a little Beduin
village, Zauiet Abd el-Kader. It consists of a few
whitewashed houses and some palm gardens, above
which are a little cemetery and a mosque of the
same name, that Abd el-Kader, a saint of the sect
of the Mádani, erected there, since the “devil of
Bumna” had, to the advantage of our expedition
and the excavations, prevented him settling in the
city of Menas. We shall speak of this fact in
another place. The railway has only one line, and
runs throughout at a distance of from 6 to 9

miles from the coast, and in places parallel with
the shore of the Gulf of Arabs. At Amriah it
reaches the official seat of Mamûr Markaz, the
Governor of modern Mariut. Here and at the next
station, Kingi Mariut, a few houses and gardens of a
European stamp may be noted, and also windmills
on the heights, reminiscent of the long-forgotten
days of Mohammed Ali.
Along the line lie fields of barley, and a few fruit
gardens; in the south, desert and hattje alternate,
and towards the sea the limestone quarries of
Dschebel Baten make a pleasant excursion for the
inhabitants of Alexandria. Ruins are not wanting
in the district, although few of them are visible
above ground. After a long ride through the desert,
in which occasionally a Beduin or a herd of camels
is to be seen, comes in the midst of a yellowish grey
tract of land the little barrack railway station of
Bahig, the point of departure for visitors to the city
of Menas. In his “Guide to the Excavations and
the Temple of Menas,”1 Monsignor Kaufmann has
described the excursion to Karm Abu Mina in
detail and given the necessary directions how best
to travel and to extend the tour south to the monasteries
of Wadi Natrûn. The Beduin village of
Bahig is a mile and a half from the lonely station,
towards the rise of the coast, where the ruins of
1 Frankfort, 1909.

Abusir and a view of the Mediterranean form an
attractive background.
Then, always in sight of the limestone ridge which
hides the coast, the railway runs south-west and
through the desert to Bir Hamam, the important
caravan station, provided with good wells, and
where at the present time interesting agricultural
experiments are being made. From Hamam the
line goes west close to the gulf, and then, still nearer
the shore, in a north-west direction. Almaida is
the next important station, directly on the coast
after crossing the plain in a northerly direction from
Haschm-el-Aisch, the heap of ruins examined by
our expedition. A ruinous mediaeval mosque with
an Arabic inscription and a modern lighthouse in
charge of an Arab are the monuments of Almaida.
Thence, a few years ago, ran the automobile road
constructed by the Khedive, which cost him nothing,
since all that had to be done was to pull out the
brushwood of the hattje and cast away the stones.
It gave, however, the direction of the railway,
which is now 168 miles long, and will soon reach
Mirsa Matru, the capital of Marmarika.
I have seen the limestone ridges of Haschm-el-Aisch
described as the key to this interesting
district. A monument of the Graeco-Roman period,
the remains of the funerary temple of Kasr
Schama el-Gherbie (“the Castle of the Evening”),

stands in the centre of the hattje, and the Auladali
shepherds like to encamp in the shade of the small
square walls, on which I found lines of the Beduin
“Diwan” scratched. The railway leaves that
building on the south, and after crossing longitude
29 approaches Agûbe. We have spoken
above of the big and little Agûbe or Akaba, the
two Katabathmos of the ancients. The Auladali
call Agûbe Minor the district between Sidi Abd er-Rahman
and the Gulf of Kanaïs. The Agûbe is
for the most part pasture land—hattje. Its inhabitants
are proud of their descent from the white
Auladali, and are bound to the soil, where they are
obliged to defend ancient titles of possession against
the advance of civilization. The picturesquely
situated station of Sidi Abd er-Rahman with its
dazzling pilgrimage mosque is one of the small
places under the influence of the Senussi. In
that mosque the Khedive, when he is inspecting
the district, often prays. These inspections of
the ruler are generally surprises. He comes as
suddenly as he goes, discovers the smallest defects,
and appears to leave little to his staff. How far
the care of the Viceroy goes—or at least went at
the time when Lord Cromer left him nothing to
govern—his officials have often complained to me.
A station-master once showed me an urgent request
for a report about a broken window-pane forwarded

from Germany, where the reigning Prince was
spending his summer holiday!
Marmarika lacks wells or cisterns. The ancient
cisterns still usable have for centuries served the
Beduins for storing water. These cisterns generally
have an accessible entrance on the surface of
the ground, and the walls of the subterranean
chamber are scratched over with badges of tribes
(Simi) and Arabic proverbs.
Those who approach the district from the desert
find a little paradise in the delightful wadis which
are lost in the desert on the south, in the sporadic
attempts at gardens in the plain, in the slopes of
the Libyan tableland, and the Mediterranean with
its shining white coast. In the region of the Agûbe
the railway had no abnormal difficulties to overcome.
In the environs of Sidi Abd er-Rahman, on the
Gulf of Kanaïs, are some prosperous farm districts.
The most notable is that of Bir Beta, about 12
miles south of the red mounds of debris of an
ancient town. There fifteen wells afford good
water and fertilize a large palm grove with its
beautiful gardens. I saw the place at the season of
the Egyptian spring, and with the nâna and schîje,
mint and heather, sage and asters, wild violets and
white clover, I was forcibly reminded of my native
land of Germany. The green zone of the landscape
is very striking at that spot, the white sand-hills of

the coast lie west of the wells, near the high ridges
of the land opposite, so that the Wadi Bir Beta
winds between the heights; and an incomparably
beautiful sight it is. The fine sand crystals of the
coast hills shine like snow; on them grow tall green
shrubs and bushes which make the hills look like
forests. When the sun throws its dazzling light
over the untouched smooth slopes, showing a sharp
line of cultivation at the foot of the incline, the eye
delights in the fertility of the tomato gardens which,
surrounded by natural hedges, fill the small valley
bottom. Unfortunately, ships come no more to Bir
Beta. The inhabitants are obliged to take their
exports to Bir Bakusch, an oasis 6 miles west of
Bir Beta, where every three months in the harvest
time a ship anchors each week. The Gulf of Bu
Schaifa of Barth's map is a few minutes west of
Bakusch. The rocky portions of its environs
resemble those of Abusir in Mariut.
Here also the Khedive recognized the value of
the land. His plan for improving the hinterland
deserves attention. Former, and future, results of
culture in that district are based on the important
wells of Bir Geraule, situated on the road from Mirsa
Matru which runs along the Karm Medar just
beyond the tomb of the Sheikh Abu Hanesch and
strikes the route of Bir Bakusch. At intervals in
all these wadis there are Zauja of the Senussi

brotherhoods. Interest is further awakened by the
frequent presence of large tomb chambers in the
hills and slopes of the valleys, with from ten to
fifteen loculi for the reception of the dead; a
few belong to prehistoric times. The caves of
Abu Schasar in Kanaïs and those in the settlement
of Abd-errâsi Abu Reiïm near Mirsa Matru are the
largest. The entrance to the last is decorated with
a fragment of an antique frieze with denticulation.
About the centre between Ras el-Kanaïs and
Ras Alam Rûm are the gardens of the village Bir
Geraule, on the foundation of an ancient settlement.
The point is of importance, for a much frequented
caravan route leads from it to the oases of Gara
and Siwa, and in three days to the smaller oasis of
Gatara, made accessible by the Khedive. Browne,
the English traveller, who is, so to say, the rediscoverer
and finder of the temple of Jupiter,
started from here after taking ten days to reach Bir
Geraule from Alexandria. The well stations of
El Maddar and Bir Abu Batta lie to the south, and
Bir Abu Zister to the west, near Wadi Raml, that
forms the first stage of the Alexander and viceregal1
route to Siwa. The track of the future
railway line is already indicated in the region of the
Mediterranean coast by the automobile road. The
rugged hills of the high plateau of the desert
1 See Chapter IX.


approach nearer to the coast, which is partly flat,
partly of cliffs. Behind Bir Geraule, at Mirsa
Berek, the track crosses the broad tongue of land
Ras Alam Rûm, which on the east surrounds Gulf
Bu Schaifa, and then goes straight to the port of
Mirsa Matru, the future commercial metropolis of
Marmarika. Farther inland are the hills of debris
of El-Baratiin or Paraetonium.
Mirsa Matru, the fort of which is strongly
garrisoned by coastguards, is a creation of Abbas
Hilmi. When the Prussian General von Minutoli
experienced there the unpleasantest days of his
journey to Siwa, a hundred years ago, he found
nothing except ruins and hostile Arabs. Now a
Greek colony of more than a hundred persons is
settled in sight of the splendidly sheltered roadstead;
their chief industry is sponge-fishing.
Other settlers from Syria and Armenia were not
supported by the Egyptian Government, and were
compelled after a brief trial to settle elsewhere;
the greater number went to America. The
sponges of the west coast of Egypt are distinguished
for their beauty and fine quality.
Numerous traders from the Turkish islands of
the archipelago bring little squadrons of from
eight to ten boats, with a crew of eight men,
and, provided with an Egyptian licence, which
costs £4 a year, share the sponge fishing. During

the summer months a thousand Greeks on an
average do business in the port and earn yearly,
it is said, £20,000. The season lasts from May to
October and extends over the whole coast as far
as Sollum.
The sponge fishers are fine types of Greek
islanders, and are extremely pious. At their own
cost they maintain a church and priests in Mirsa
Matru, the only Christian church in the whole of
the west of Egypt, protected by the cannon of the
fort, which commands the harbour and the town.
Along the coast, and especially in the island of
Ischaïla, a few days' journey to the west, are
the graves of Greeks who perished through using
ill-constructed diving dresses. The Government
has at last forbidden the use of the diving helmet
under heavy penalties, and so the men dive naked,
provided with a rope and a marble stone, which
takes them down a depth of 25 fathoms. At
the first movement of the rope two men draw
the diver up again. The necessity of obtaining a
Government licence is in the interests of the sponge
fishery, for it renders robbery impossible and thus
the sponges flourish better.
The great question for the future of Mirsa
Matru is again the water question. Drinking
water is scanty; the ancient cisterns are destroyed.
At the request of the Khedive the Artesian Boring

and Prospecting Company has made trials of
artesian wells. When I last visited Mirsa Matru
in 1907 a young German was at the head of the
enterprise and was glad to see a compatriot. “If
I hadn't my gramophone with me, I couldn't stand
it here,” he said, and, as I was on the way to
Dscharabub with a small caravan, let me hear
Wagner and classical music. About 3 miles south
of the fort, and in other places, the rock was
bored to a depth of from 100 to 200 yards.
At 80 or 100 yards clay was struck, and later
chalk, and it was hoped lower still to come upon
a layer of grey Nubian sandstone. The company
also prospected for petroleum. I heard later that
the works were stopped as purposeless. It was
a severe blow for the viceregal railway, and the
continuation of the line to Sollum is beyond the
range of probability.
The region of Agûbe Major begins west of Mirsa
Matru and extends to the Gulf of Sollum. There
the Senagra branch of the Auladali rule, and even
to-day travelling there is only to be advised for
those who have some knowledge of the country and
are well armed. Sometimes the ruins of a Roman
or an Arab settlement are to be seen. West of
the above-mentioned island of Ischaïla are the ruins
of an Arab Kasr, named, like the ruins at the
entrance to Marmarika, Kasr Schama. They rest

on an ancient foundation. The Beduins west of
Mirsa Matru still remember the attack made on
Heinrich Barth, the German African explorer, in
which he was wounded on his memorable march,
and compelled to flee and return to Alexandria.

[Back to top]



Christmas Eve improvisation—Divine worship in the tomb of
Menas—Hail to the Kaiser!—Political unrest of the
Beduins—The two Effendi are to be spared in the general
massacre of the Christians—The Jôm dschûma—Fear of
the European doctor—Resurrection of the negro Chêr—
I win my horse Ibrahîm—The water caravan—A night
attack—Siwi, the chief of the three faithful comrades—
Visit of Europeans—Beduin pantomime: jealousy—The
iron donkey (Homâr hadîd).

THE “great day of the Christians” dawned—work
was stopped; an improvisation was to celebrate the
festival, at which Arabs from the near neighbourhood
of Karm Abu Mina might appear. The
sun rose late, and came out from behind the tomb
of the Fessan Abd er-Rahman like a veiled ball
of purple red. Its first beams lighted up the
yellow ridges of the hills, and the numerous Koms
under which lie buried the joy and sorrow of
bygone races, the villas and huts of Christians,
who more than a thousand years ago lay a

whole night on the marble pavement of their
great temple in joyful emotion, amid the singing of
psalms to await the sublime mystery of Christmas.
Then the early light showed the lines of
black and grey tents, and swift as a cat Hassan
climbed the tower in order to hoist the two flags,
the German and the Egyptian. When the black,
white, and red banner fluttered in the morning
breeze, as if desirous that every thread should be
bathed in gold, two hearts beat quicker and higher
and thought of their beloved distant home.
No horn to-day drove the sleeping children of
the desert from their primitive couches. Hassan,
the black young son of “Happiness”—such
was his father's name (Chêr), a slave carried
off from Dar-Fur, now freed and a good
workman—appeared for the day's celebration
in a dazzling white linen shirt, his eyes beaming
in his handsome face under the dark-red
turban. He carried the mysterious box, the
contents of which scarcely a Beduin has seen,
and accompanied us to the basilica. Mansûr,
whose father's name is “The Good,” followed
at a respectful distance, fully armed and keeping
an eye on the camp. He looked after
our safety during the night, and will not sleep
to-day because it is the Id el-Kebir, the great
festival of the Effendis. The marble of the

font glittered and shone in the beauty of the
morning as we walked between the columns
of the basilica of the Emperor Arcadius. The
wooden gate which closed the entrance to the
crypt opened creaking, and we descended the
marble staircase to the tomb of the patron saint
of the desert, the national saint of the early
Christians in Egypt, the man in whose honour
Alexandria once considered itself fortunate to be
called the metropolis of St. Menas. Hassan had
then to withdraw and keep guard at the entrance
to the portico of the crypt. The box was placed
on a marble pedestal and opened; the altar was
soon set up. My cousin put on the priest's robes
and the Christmas matins began. “Gloria in
excelsis Deo,” the message of joy and peace
resounded from the walls of the tomb of Menas
to the deep blue heavens which roof like a lofty
canopy the opening of the confessio.
If only all the Christian heroes who once passed
where we are kneeling could rise up from the
darkness of the catacombs and tombs, from
Athanasius the Great, from the Patriarch of
Alexandria to the troops of pilgrims and the
caravans of poor sick and needy persons for the
transport of whom the Emperor of Ostrom had
organized a special safety service! Even the
heathens of a great epoch appeared in the tomb

in order to solicit the aid of the saint as judge;
Jews of Alexandria swore by him, and obtained
immunity in his temple. How they all would
see with horror and terror what had become of
the splendid sanctuary after the storms of Islam
had passed over it and destroyed the pride of
It was a justifiable exception on the high festival
of Christianity to celebrate the liturgical sacrament
amid the ruins and monuments of the early
Christians rather than in the Kasr. The Beduins
call the massive stone house built of the ruins that
we erected from our own plans in the second year
of our work the Kasr a' Bumna, or castle; it
comprises a deep cellar, one large living-room, and
the tower which played an important part as store-chamber
and look-out.
Hassan understood how to use the spirit stove
and made the tea for breakfast. He also now
could cook eggs—the first time he cooked the
egg-timer with them, and quite thoroughly, for
half an hour—and as of his own accord he had
opened a tin of corned beef in celebration of the
occasion and offered it to us in his clean black
hands, he earned a word of praise for his understanding
of our wishes. While we ate in Lucullus
fashion at the folding table which had been pulled
to the house door, and talked of Christmas-trees


and the snowy forests of the Taunus, a salvo of
shots was suddenly heard behind the house, and
then the whole troop rushed past, all in freshly
washed burnous, most in yellow bullra (leather
slippers), the low Beduin purple fez on their shorn
heads. The second salvo was sent into the air in
front of the steps, and Sheikh Sadaui in robes of
ceremony stepped forward in front of all to offer
congratulations. “May you indeed be happy all
the years,” he said, shaking and kissing our
hands. During the whole day we were greeted
with the beautiful formula “May the Lord prolong
your life!” And many a noble and beautiful
word was spoken of Seidne Ese, the Lord Jesus,
whom they honour as a great prophet.
Two days before Christmas I had bought a sack
of rice, sugar, and dates at the Souk in Bahig,
and kind friends had sent all sorts of things from
Alexandria when we decided to spend Christmas
in the solitude of the desert. Women now
appeared from each tent with their metal pots, in
which to receive their rations, which were measured
out according to the number of dwellers in the
tents. As a rule the workpeople had of course
to fend for themselves, only water being supplied,
but to-day they were all guests of the Effendis.
It gave us a welcome opportunity of making some
return to our neighbours for their continued hospitality.

Those neighbours came in troops, mostly
on thoroughbred Arab horses; the women and
children accompanied them on foot. As soon as
they were in sight of the Kasr and the colony of
tents, they set the horses at a gallop, and clouds
of dust arose. A single rider galloped forward,
stopped suddenly in front of the house, firing
two shots. I had noticed a similar proceeding
when I assisted at Beduin festivals, and was
accustomed to the universal sign of approbation.
Our Christmas dinner consisted of two gazelles
that we had shot, over the carving of which Sheikh
Sadaui and Mansûr presided. But before the feast
came the improvisation, a spectacle that could only
occur in the open desert. All available horses
were beautifully caparisoned: the stirrups were of
engraved silver, the saddle-cloths of fine inlaid
leather-work. The head ornaments alone of the
horses of wealthy Arabs on such occasions represented
a fortune. And the enthusiasm, the fire
in each glance, every movement of the dignified
Beduins in their flowing burnous, was a joy to
behold as they stepped forward. The horsemen
had loaded their guns and pushed up the ramrods
again, the flintlocks in order, and then they swung
themselves into the saddle. In a long row the field
awaits the signal, and then they gallop over the
ancient vineyards of the city of Menas and vanish

in the desert. The non-riders and the men who
had been left behind assemble, and form a large
circle, just as European children do in their games.
We sat on our folding chairs in the open space,
and then the actual improvisation began. The
men and lads clapped their hands in time, and
demonstrated in a monotonous rhythm by the
typical formula - oo - -, joy, pleasure, and daring.
All eyes are directed to the distance, to the
farthest Koms of the city of Menas, for there
will the cavalcade first appear again. Joyful
notes in a high treble are heard—a woman's
figure draped in black climbed up the tent and
discovered a cloud of dust. Women and girls
rush out, and a hundred voices greet the horsemen
with the chanting of the sarlûl of the Beduin
women. The rhythm of the hand-clapping grows
slower, attention is fixed on those who are
approaching. Individual riders are seen galloping
in front of the rest and winning the field.
Terrified, we perceive they are standing in the
saddle, bent almost to the horse's mane, swinging
their guns in their free right hand. Sadaui, our
bold young Sheikh, is the first. His pride would
not let it be otherwise, even if he rode his horse
to death. Now he flies forward, holding his
gun aloft, balancing it on his bent head, and letting
his hand fall. The fluttering figure flies over the

plain, while the cavalcade gains on him from
behind, and this display being successful, he
again seizes his gun as he flies, swings it over
head and shoulders and fires twice at short intervals
at the very moment he rushes past. So far
as they can, the rest imitate the Sheikh. Then
the foam-flecked horses are reined in and paraded
round for a time to recover breath. The performance
was twice repeated in the course of the day.
A shooting match immediately followed, and
Hassan spread out a large red rug, on which the
small prizes destined for the winners (cigarettes,
tobacco, sugar, tea) were arranged in neat parcels
or in the preserved food tins so loved in Beduin
households. The prizes nearly always fell to the
old, even antediluvian type of gun. Owners of
flintlocks did better than those who had modern
Monsignor Kaufmann never liked me to take
part in the shooting; the Beduins ought never
to see a white man make a miss. If it is remembered
that people were there who, like Eluâni,
could bring down a bird on the wing with one
hand, it is easy to appreciate their inborn skill.
During the shooting match a detachment of black
Askari came riding up, commissioned by their
officer to congratulate us on the Id of the
Christians. They were entertained, and remained

until evening. One of the soldiers took part in
the competition with six cartridges from his carbine,
repeatedly hit the mark, but gave a written
receipt for the consumption of ammunition.
The other Christian festivals were spent more
quietly, but the German Emperor's birthday was
celebrated with great ceremony, and the Beduins
came in troops to do honour to the friend of the
Grand Seignior, the Sultan of the Franks and
Almâns. In 1906 and 1907 the enthusiasm of
the Beduins for the German Sultan overstepped
all bounds. The events in Morocco had great
influence; innocent Mecca pilgrims from Fez,
Algiers, and Tunis were regarded as political envoys.
Things were still worse in the Nile district,
where the news of the unrest and discontent of the
natives quickly forced its way into the interior of
the desert and to the most distant oases. The
large date caravans to El-Wa (Farafrah) and Siwa,
as well as Hedscha travellers, were anxious for
information and enlightenment. They were all
fanatically enthusiastic for the rights of the Grand
Seignior. The two Sultans, the Turk and the
German, allied, would rule the world. An old
Senussi priest in the Agûbe said that England's
power once attacked would not reach farther than
her ships' guns. The man knew exactly that
England, France, and Russia together commanded

more than a hundred millions of Moslems.
“Why doesn't your 'Imperadûr' help the
Caliph if he wishes to wave the green flag of the
Prophet in Stamboul? Not only half Africa would
obey the call of the Padisha, but also the Moslems
of India, Persia, Transcaucasia, and Turkestan!”
Thence came, and still comes, the little-heeded
unrest among the Senussi monks, the real lords of
the whole of the Western Sahara. Lord Cromer's
crushing iron rule, which suppressed every movement
of Egyptian liberty, spread hatred of the
“Inglîs” among the Auladali. At the time of the
English death sentence on Denischwai, which was
Cromer's Fashoda and the starting-point of the
Nationalist movement, the unrest of the fellahs
had long reached the Beduins. The talk of our
workpeople around the tent fires turned on the
right and wrong of the “Inglîs” at Bacher en-Nil,
on the war that the Sultan would declare, on the
question of friendship between the Sultan and the
Imperadûr of the Germans. Our situation would
have been a lost one if we had not been Germans,
and my cousin used to breathe freely when the
numerous English officers who came to visit the
excavations were safely out of sight. The Beduins'
guns were always cocked, and the days of plunder
under Arabi Pasha revived. Wherever I went—
and, accompanied only by one Beduin, I made a

number of excursions to discover how the land lay
—I found almost everywhere some one who had
taken part in the sack of Alexandria under Arabi
in 1882, and unasked related experiences of that
terrible time.
With a few hundred pounds all the tribes of the
Auladali could have been stirred up to a campaign
in the delta district. The brown-skinned fellows
imagined to themselves the delight of plundering
the houses of the Christians as in the time of
Arabi. And there was one period during our
excavations when matters looked serious for us,
for the hostility to the English assumed here and
there the character of a general hatred of the
In May, 1907, the Commandant of Alexandria
asked Monsignor Kaufmann to go and see him
on a matter of urgency. As shortly before we
had been shot at in the night, the matter was
most likely connected with that occurrence. The
greater was the surprise when the Commandant
drew my cousin's attention to certain intrigues in
Mariut. A sheikh, Ali Abu el-Nûr el-Gherbi, was
stirring up the Beduins and demanding the murder
of the Christians. Hopkinson Pasha, to whom my
good relations with the Beduins were known, asked
Monsignor Kaufmann to institute secret inquiries
through me and report to him.


On his return my cousin summoned our Sheikh
and questioned him. He knew of the matter, but
had feared to hurt us by speaking of it. Some
Beduins had been present at an inflammatory speech
of Ali Abu el-Nûr, and told how the man had
asserted that the land of the Nile belonged to the
Effendi, i.e., the Khedive; that the English were
the enemies of the Khedive, and the foreigners
were intruders. The day would dawn when all
Christians would be massacred. That the Beduins
understood that this was to happen in the near future
was shown by the declaration of our people: “If
the Christians are murdered, you two will be
excepted, for you are our friends and better than
Mohammedans!” A day or two after some one
brought a message that the fanatic was to speak
at Bahig on Friday. I put on Beduin dress and,
accompanied by Sheikh Sadaui and others, went to
the market-place and heard the speech. Ali Abu el-Nûr
made a good impression. He did not look wild,
but more like a man full of kindness and benevolence.
No inflammatory sentiments were uttered,
either because the man had been warned or on
account of the nearness of Alexandria. He spoke of
the duties of prayer and ablution. Only at the end
was the emphatic sentence perhaps suspicious:
“This earth here, this land, belongs to Effendine; no
one except Effendine is master here. The Khedive


is our master.” Few would have been aware of
the meaning of such an allusion. But a categorical
rumour went about that Ali was travelling in the
Beduin districts at the expense of the Viceroy and
had a free pass for all the Egyptian railways. But
as our safety was rated higher than the favour of
the Khedive, a truer report went about, and Ali had
to disappear from the scene. To our great consolation
his appeal to the Ministers and the Press,
the Times among others writing of his inflammatory
proceedings in Mariut, resulted in nothing.
In spite of the fact that each day brought hard,
regular work, and that our personal needs and
comforts had to be reduced to very modest dimensions,
there was less monotony in our life during
the two years of the excavations than might have
been expected so far from civilization. This was
due to intercourse with the people. They saw with
what interest their personal circumstances were
regarded. If any one was ill, aid in some form or
other was obtainable at the excavation buildings.
And the smallest gift was gratefully received by
men whose wants were so few.
One day the tent of an industrious workman,
Abd er-Rahman Snene by name, was burnt down.
It was, so to speak, the only property which he had
saved for himself and his family in more than a
year's hard work, for earlier he had possessed literally

nothing. On pay-day we gave him about ten
shillings extra in order to procure cloth for a cheap
summer tent. That kind of thing made the people
friendly, and was doubly advantageous because the
possibility of persecution and rebellion was always
at hand. A single discontented man could make
his whole Kabyle rise against the Effendi, and the
dismissal of doubtful elements would easily give
cause for discontent. Only absolute justice with
decisive help in cases of need kept the people in
check and proclaimed the good reputation of the
“lords” of Bumna far into the desert. My cousin,
the “old Effendi,” exercised this strict justice, but
if an intermediary was required, then it was the
“young Effendi” to whom the matter was entrusted
and who had to make things right with the “old.”
Pay-day, the jôm dschûma, was fertile in disputes.
The wages came to about IS. 4d. per day each, and
for this they had to feed themselves, not always
an easy matter. On that day there was a Beduin
market at Bahig railway station, a good opportunity
for procuring dates and onions, corn, tobacco and
tea, the chief articles of food of the “better” people.
We always had to have small coins ready for the
payments, since change was, of course, not to be
expected. Every fortnight one of us fetched the
coins from the National Bank of Egypt. With
enough of them to pay over a hundred men, the

reckoning and sorting took much time, the more as
one or the other had generally had an advance.
About evening on Friday the signal “fadoûs,”
which really means “meal-time,” was sounded, and
all the people assembled in front of the door
of the house. In the doorway stood the large
wooden table with the little piles of coins: the
two Effendi sat behind it, I with the register. By
our side stood a brawny fellow with his gun and
a wild appearance, who represented law and
order, and then in a long row, arranged by the
Sheikh, the people came up as they were called
by name. Each eye looked at the apparently
calm face of the “old Effendi,” and every one was
glad when the payment was made without any
criticism from him. For besides the sum to be
paid, there was also written in the ominous cashbook
the sins of each, and often a word of well-deserved
praise. The people took their money
without counting it, placed their hand on breast and
brow in token of thanks, and sat down in parties in
front of the tents in order to do all sorts of business
together. Pay-day was an exciting one for our
guards, for all sorts of relatives came to offer loans
or ask for their repayment. As they were not permitted
to approach until the end of the paying, they
often lay concealed among the distant Koms for
hours, and their presence was only betrayed by the

shining of their gun-barrels or their inquisitive
There was a negro who kept faithful to us of his
own will, but who was held in low repute on account
of his debts, which dated from years back and
amounted to more than ten pounds. He constantly
made us the request that when it came to his
turn on pay-day it might be said, “There's no
money for you to-day, be off!” Then his creditors
could get nothing from him, and his numerous
children could have bread, which the black mother
baked in the hot ashes after grinding the corn
between two stones.
But sometimes these occasions held surprises for
us. A nice-looking young man of eighteen stepped
forward and said, “Effendiat, I must thank you and
wish you all the good in life. In the course of the
year I have saved so much that I am able to marry.”
We pointed out to him that the small sum would
scarcely be sufficient for the purchase of the bride and
the expenses of the wedding, and that then he would
have nothing, as before. He replied hesitatingly,
“By Allah, I shall eat bread,” which meant, “I shall
not starve.” Such candidates returned later with
the woman of their choice and a tent of their own
in order to begin again. Another man, a strong
capable fellow with a splendid beard, who had been
with us three weeks, asked to be allowed to go at

once: “I only wanted to get a new burnous, so
that my brothers might envy me.”
But there also came people who asked for work,
with express declaration of their purpose. Very
few wanted to earn money regularly, or to work
for mere maintenance. Many relatively well-to-do
men worked in order to earn the wherewithal to buy
one of their wives a pair of bracelets or clothes, and
such birds of passage generally obtained what they
wanted in a few months. They lived in the
bachelors' tent. More dangerous, but not easily
put aside, were travellers from foreign countries.
Pilgrims to Mecca, undertaking the arduous journey
on foot from Tripoli or Morocco from lack of
money, or on account of a special vow, or those
returning from the Hedschas, when they learnt the
presence of Christians, sometimes made an ostensible
detour, and the inhabitants of neighbouring
tents, to whom such guests were in no wise
welcome, reported the amiable things said about
us, of which “son of a bitch” was the least.
But occasionally a more enlightened Hedscha
pilgrim visited us, and then the evening talk was
interesting. There were not lacking also solitary
dervishes, oasites (from Siwa and Bachrije), and
Beduins of stranger tribes, from the districts of
western Marmarika. Among our most capable
helpers were a few Druse Beduins from the slopes

of the Hauran in Syria, and a few fugitives from
the Turkish territory of Barca. But I shall return
to this.
Many a stranger, on whose face was written
vagrant habits and worse, came merely to seek a
cure for some sickness. Sores on the leg and arm,
with big and little, were the chief troubles, due to
lack of water and of cleanliness. We were very
often consulted, too, for eye troubles. Egyptian
ophthalmia is spreading terribly among the youth
of the desert, and we used large quantities of
boric acid and a certain collyrium. We ourselves
experienced that the cold night dew on our
uncovered heads, even under the shelter of the tent,
brought on ophthalmia. After I was quite severely
attacked and my cousin more lightly, we accustomed
ourselves to sleep with our heads well covered
up in Beduin fashion, not always a pleasant
thing. While the men bore the handling of the
“Hakîm,” as was to be expected from their
muscular, hardened figures, stoically, the women
were more sensitive, just as they are in a dentist's
waiting-room. Even sitting down on so unaccustomed
an object as a chair formed an act that
was accomplished with anguish and even tears.
In time our guard Mansûr became sufficiently
skilful for us to leave the treatment of patients
needing assistance for several days in his hands.

He sprinkled boric acid, put collyrium into the
eyes, just like a qualified assistant, and many did
not even come to us when they needed no other
help than the famous “German soup,” the schaurbâ,
the pectoral powder dissolved in water. Wounds
of all sorts formed the ailments of the larger part
of our patients. Severe wounds from fighting,
bullet wounds, and such-like were not often brought
to us in the early days of our sojourn; the men
might die or recover as Allah willed, and as it
had happened in the desert for thousands of years,
without the foreign Hakîm. They did, however,
try many domestic remedies for open wounds; for
example, henna powder, ground coffee, and gunpowder.
In cases of wounds occurring through
shooting and family quarrels they feared to go to
the Kasr to ask help of the Effendis, for the
constant patrols and visits of officers to the Karm
made the people suspicious. As friends of the
English we should report them, or have them
imprisoned! In course of time that fear was
seen to be unfounded, and gradually wounded
persons were brought to us. The healing power
of the “yellow powder” (iodoform) competed
successfully with henna. Unfortunately many cases
came to our notice which were either totally incurable
or needed the help of a real doctor. Mothers
came with their dying children, whom they brought

from a long distance on a donkey or a camel. We
breathed more freely when we had dismissed the
poor creatures with a word of comfort, for we could
not help them. Others might have been cured if
they had consulted a doctor, but the Beduins preferred
to let their loved ones die rather than seek
expert help. Not even the offer of a free journey
and free treatment, or the promise of accompanying
them ourselves in those cases where they might
have been saved, had the least effect. The most
a son of the desert ever ventured was to call in
the advice of a native healer. How such persons,
fellahs or Beduins, treated and maltreated the
patients I saw with horror, especially in cases
of consumption, which are found in the desert
more often than might be expected. The old
medical saying, “Quod non sanat ferrum, ignis
sanat” (what iron does not heal, fire heals) is
branded to-day, as of old, in broad marks on the
chest and back of Beduin sufferers from phthisis.
The practice of cauterizing seems to have been
transferred to human beings from the animal world,
where sickness was nearly always treated with a hot
iron, and, as we experienced with our horses and
camels, successfully in certain cases.
Only in one instance was I able to persuade a
Beduin to go to Alexandria for treatment. Our
young Eluâni had doubly loaded his gun by mistake,

and when shooting a large bird of passage
loosened his thumb and injured his hand. I took him
myself to the hospital of the German Deaconesses,
where doctors and sisters vied in nursing the
strange patient. It all seemed to him like a fairy
tale—the amputation in a “dream,” the beautiful
soft bed, rare broth and food, and these Christians,
benevolent “spirits,” who instead of demanding
money gave it; and when Eluâni later related at
Bahig and at the Karm his experiences in Paradise
there was always a word of praise for the Effendi.
It did not occur to any one to imitate him, and yet
Eluâni, the enlightened one, was descendant of
a Beduin saint.
But a masterpiece was to seal the fame of the
white Hakîm, a cure that resembled a resurrection
in the eyes of the Beduins. Chêr, the often
mentioned negro, one hot summer's day was
employed away from the main body of the excavators
in emptying a well chamber. Both his
sons were working deep down in the earth;
Massaût dug, and Hassan filled the cage, which
Chêr let down on the rope. All at once Chêr
uttered a cry and fell to the ground. His sons
climbed up and carried their father into the tent.
He was quite unconscious and still, and when
mother and children called in other women, Chêr's
body was cold, and his brow covered with cold

perspiration. Everybody was terrorstruck, and the
women set up the death-howl, so that not only
the workpeople, but persons from the neighbouring
tents came running up in affright. I ran to my
cousin, who was working in the house, as fast as I
could, and at the same time Hassan came with the
news, “My father is dead.” We all ran quickly
to the tent, and Monsignor Kaufmann and I sent
the men and women away. The old man was
cold, but his heart beat, though very feebly and
slowly, and, perhaps because of the noise made
by the women, scarcely audibly. We did not
know what it could be, and raising Chêr somewhat,
my cousin gave him a tablespoonful of Hoffmann's
drops.1 All eyes were fixed on him and me, and
the white medicine worked the miracle. Chêr
opened his eyes and made a movement as if to be
sick. But nothing happened, and he sank back
on the ground softly groaning. As the pulse was
strikingly better, my cousin said boldly, “Chêr will
live.” And the old man, who remained with us to
the last day, grew visibly better, and in a week
was at work again. It was explained to us in
Alexandria that the illness was caused by a severe
sunstroke in the desert. The result was that
from far around, when people were dying, they
sent to us for the miraculous white water, and
1 Ether drops.

we were sorry to be unable to repeat the experiment.
Those whom we cured testified deep gratitude
to the Hakîm wherever they met him. The following
may be told by way of illustration. I
might entitle the tale, “How I won my horse
Ibrahîm.” It was on New Year's Day. A light
breeze from the confines of the desert brought
the first scent of the spring flowers, which at
that season cover the usually barren earth with
a gay-coloured carpet. I was sitting in the
tent with my cousin, poring over old plans, when
suddenly we heard a shout to the north. It was
an alarm signal for the sentries, who surrounded
the ancient city in a wide circle. We hurried
to the door, on which Eluâni leaned and pointed
with his hand to the sentry tent at the north of
the city. There we saw an Arab hurrying along
on horseback, seemingly in the greatest excitement.
For although the constant gesticulation
of southern races did not necessarily indicate anything
of importance, the talk of the stranger
wrapped in his white burnous was continually
punctuated by-movements of the arms, and evidently
announced great news. The sentry, who
meanwhile had caught sight of us, abruptly broke
off the conversation, grasped the bridle of the
Arab's horse, and led the strange rider to us.

On coming closer I recognized my friend Abd
el-Schuard, who dismounted, his eyes full of tears.
“Effendi,” stammered the son of the desert, who
was generally master of every situation, “you
must ride at once to the tent of Hassan Bu Ismain.
Salme, his wife, is dying. We have all been
there for some days. It is the eleventh day
that Salme has had the illness.”
Circumspection was necessary. Hassan Bu
Ismain belonged to my most intimate friends.
Salme had often hospitably prepared tea and food
for me, when after a long expedition my way
chanced to lead by her tent. With this sort
of people, the treatment of illness is a ticklish
business. If the cure is successful, then the joy
of the Arab knows no bounds. If it is unsuccessful
the doctor must be on his guard, for the sick
person's family will always see in him the
murderer who manifestly brought about the invalid's
death, and he will certainly be pursued by
the vendetta.
I consented to accompany Abd el-Schuard, and
made it clear to him that I only did so for the
sake of our friend Hassan Bu Ismain, a distinguished
Arab Sheikh. But I pointed out how
much Hassan's negligence was at fault in allowing
his wife to be ill for eleven days before sending
the messenger.


The horses were saddled. Eluâni took the
travelling medicine-chest, and let one of our
workwomen who was very clever in such cases
sit behind him on the horse. Abd el-Schuard
offered me Hassan Bu Ismain's horse, a magnificent
four-year-old Arab steed. He rode
my beast. The cavalcade, speeded by the good
wishes of our people, was soon on its way, and
after a three hours' ride we reached Hassan's
tent. He came to meet us outside the encampment,
and after the customary forms of greeting,
bewailed his need in extravagant terms. In the
men's tent, which it was impossible to avoid,
although we could hear the sick woman's groans,
sat about twenty members of the family, who each
had to be greeted, and who expressed the hope that
with God's blessing the cure would be successful.
With an “If God wills,” I left them, and entered
Salme's chamber. I had first gently to explain
to the women who were standing round Salme
wailing and groaning that the invalid must be
at once left alone. They obeyed.
Salme, who had the reputation of a Beduin
beauty, was yellow and pale, and complained of
pains in the stomach. The diagnosis did not
take long. The symptoms pointed to colic, and
our workwoman, with the help of one of Hassan's
girls, gave the necessary alleviation. We meanwhile

withdrew into the men's tent, where Hassan
Bu Ismain played the host with all the grace
and charm of the Arab. While we smoked
cigarettes and sipped tea, suddenly a cry of joy
came from the women's chamber. Salme was
better. A stone fell from my heart. The medicine
had done its duty, as was to be expected in the
case of a young woman like Salme, and the
normal course had followed.
I thought they would never cease shaking hands.
I assured Hassan that he need not fear any
recurrence of the illness, and he embraced me
passionately. Repeated cries of joy continued
to confirm the success of the cure.
When Hassan's servants left the tent and
hastened to the herds, I urged our departure,
and refused to stay, in spite of the Sheikh's request,
though I should have been glad to let Eluâni and
our workwoman share in the feast of joy. When
we three were in the saddle, surrounded by the
whole joyful family, Hassan came up to my
horse with a fat sheep in his arms. “Take it:
may God reward you!” he cried with tears of
joy in his eyes. I stopped him: “You know,
Hassan, that I haven't saved your wife on that
account; now grant me my wish.” Then the
broad-shouldered man went to my servant's
horse, laid the sheep across the saddle-bows,

came back to me, and said: “Go in peace; as
God wills, your wish shall be granted.”
When we had reached our camp and I described
our strange journey, and also mentioned
that Hassan would come to-morrow to bring me
his horse Ibrahîm, for which I had in vain
been negotiating with him for months, they all
thought it most unlikely.
But the next day Hassan Bu Ismain sent the
horse by one of his servants, the horse whose eyes,
as is said in a song of praise to the steed, resemble
the souls of men, whose voice is like the roaring of
the storm, and whose heart resembles the fire of
the Samum.
The question is to be asked if the Effendi, amid
all the disagreeables of the desert and the excavations,
were never themselves in need of the Hakîm.
With the exception of ophthalmia, the return of
which at its first entrance was guarded against
by prophylactic means, we only suffered from
touches of dysentery, and now and then perhaps
a trace of what is generally called tropical fever.
Heaven evidently protected us. For on an average
one of us went to Alexandria once a fortnight,
where we found a circle of compatriots eager to
help us. We always lacked, however, two things,
fresh bread and good water, the want of which
we felt deeply. A few cases of Giesshübler were

our own reserve in dire need, and were always
with us. From April to November the daily
quantum of water was, as far as possible, drunk
in the form of tea or just coloured with red wine.
A present from Hopkinson Pasha of two big
earthen filters, holding together about 120 gallons,
was a great comfort. Placed in the open air, they
kept the liquid, even in the hot months, comparatively
cool. In those months the water caravan,
for which we had purchased three camels for
about £5, went to Bir Eisêle, near Bahig,
every other day, where as many as twelve large
skins of water were obtained. As a rule, the
quality of the water was good. Of course, it was
never clear, but the Berkefeld filters were useless,
since it was necessary to clean the filtering tubes
every few minutes.
When the number of workmen was at or over
one hundred, the water caravan had to go every
day, and the two horses had to be added to it.
The bay possessed a thirsty soul. At the time
of the watering, two hours before sunset, he
followed Mansûr, the guard, about, neighing for
joy whenever he heard a pail rattle or the water
caravan came in sight. The daily provision of
water was stored in a large closed cask kept in a
three-cornered wooden house. The daily giving
out of it took place under my supervision, because

no one was to be trusted with the precious liquid.
Each tent received a pailful. While work was in
progress, a tin can containing about 10 gallons was
at the disposal of each larger group of workers;
as a rule, it was only drunk during the pauses, and
refilled three times according to need. Umm
Sâd (Mother Sâd), who saved Monsignor Kaufmann's
life, looked after this water service for
a whole year; it included the filling and carrying
of these cans over the whole extent of the excavations.
All attempts to make the cisterns and wells we
dug out of service to us failed. For 22 yards down
there was no water; to dig farther was not permitted
by the statics of the limestone walls. Most
likely, even so, we should only have come upon
some salt liquid. But we found a benefit in a
whole series of fine cisterns that, in the interests
of archaeology, had been cleared out, and were
still in such good condition that from November
to February, after a single tropical shower, the
large underground reservoir was filled with excellent
water, enough to last a fortnight. Such seasons
of plenty made the friendly Beduin tribes bring
their herds of camels to the city of Menas, where
the beasts could drink to their hearts' content.
Our own camels were, as a rule, watered every
three days, and in the interval felt no thirst. In

the interior of the desert the animals are taken to
the wells every five days.
The assertion of our people that during the
whole spring the camels would require no water
was in reality greatly exceeded. From the beginning
of January to April 10, 1907, for three months,
the animals not only did not drink a drop of water,
but refused a pailful if put before them. The succulent
achdâr, the green weeds found in the desert
in spring, sufficed them, and they grew well on the
ancient mounds of the city of Menas. The apparently
clumsy creatures sought out their favourite
bits among the blocks of stone, and even the horses
which pastured in the wadis—the old roads to the
sacred city—at that season only drank a pailful of
water every three days.
So, with the exception of a few days, the water
question was a capital one, not only for life, but
for general conditions. It needed the service
almost continually of three camels and two men,
and was hard work, for the filling of the deep
cisterns of Eisêle, work for which every Beduin
must bring his own large rope and implements
for the wells, often took hours. How often when
the water was being given out my cousin spoke
to the people and showed them the material
value of the gift. Then they used to say, thanking
him, “Indeed, Effendi, the water is money!”

Quite rightly then did the leader of the excavations
in his first official report praise the appearance of
the water caravan at Karm Abu Mina in the
beautiful poetical words of the Rufus epistle of
Pope Leo XIII: “Candida Lympha! Datum vix
quidquam hoc munere maius” — “Pure liquid,
there is scarcely a greater gift than this!”
And so it is characteristic that the first attack
of stranger Beduins on the excavators had evidently
no other ground than a planned water-raid. It
was on a dark spring evening, when Monsignor
Kaufmann was working at the home-made writing-table,
while I was already dreaming on the bed.
Mansûr, the guard, knocked at the door, and said
that he heard people approaching on the south
who did not answer his challenge. Monsignor
Kaufmann went to one of the windows looking
south, opened the wooden shutters, and at the
same moment two shots were heard and struck
the mud wall. The lamp was quickly extinguished,
for on the opening of the shutters it offered a
mark. My cousin took his Winchester rifle, and
kneeling down, fired in quick succession eleven
sharp shots in the direction of the enemy, loaded
again, and fired another eleven. The whole camp
was, of course, alarmed, and our people plainly
heard a troop fleeing. In their hurried flight a
cask had struck against some firm object, probably

the stirrups. The next morning the track, which
pointed to several adults and two donkeys, was
followed up, but without result. It was lucky
that the hostile bullets had not hit any of the
horses or camels, that were spending the night
in rank and file in the open air close to the
excavation buildings.
This night attack helped to spread the fame
of our Winchester rifle. The rumour got abroad
that it could be fired forty times without reloading,
and the well - preserved secret helped materially
to our safety. No one lightly ventured near the
camp by night, or even in the daytime, without
the authorization of the guard, and Sheikh Sadaui
set up a number of stone pyramids on the most
distant Koms of the city of Menas, which usually
form landmarks for wanderers in the desert, in
order to draw the attention of strangers to certain
perils: men and beasts, for instance, might, if they
approached the undermined ground, sink into
cisterns and tombs.
Three dogs counted among the lesser joys of our
existence, presents from friends: a Beduin dog
named Abiad, a young fellah dog whom we
called Amenotep, and Siwi, the dog par excellence,
one of the wonders of Bumna. Abiad, so called
on account of his white colour, a wild Beduin
Pomeranian, had been tamed by us with difficulty.

Entering the house was the hardest for him. He
was accustomed to the desert and, like most
Beduins, felt unsafe and unhappy within walls.
All interest was concentrated on Siwi, whose
brief earthly life will live in the legends of the
Auladali when the epitaphs in the dogs' cemetery
at Paris are long rotted away and destroyed.
Siwi was given to me as a young pointer of
Anglo-German cross-breed, an English pointer
by a German hound of ancient descent, when
I was travelling with the Khedive in Marmarika.
The dog's arrival at Karm Abu Mina excited
the greatest astonishment among those persons
who had never been in the Nile valley and had
never seen a European dog. In contrast to
the wolf-hounds and pointers of the desert that
guarded the tents of the Arabs, Siwi—the Beduins
called him Siwaner, because they thought he came
from the oasis—although only at most a year
old, seemed a giant. When, eager to play, he
approached them, they fled in terror. In the
early days of his presence the cry “Come here,
Effendi, and set us free!” was often heard. For
the negroes and those dressed in dark apparel
and the poor, Siwi was an object of continual
fear, but no one ventured to illtreat him. Unfortunately
we spoiled him, and the English
officers and others of our guests made a pet

of him. Only in that way can we account for
the fact that, although by race he should have
been a passionate sportsman, he refused the
chase. Every chameleon or lizard put him off
from his goal; he never ran to the booty at the
sound of the shot, but away from the sand
eddies caused by the bullet. At shooting matches
he had to be chained up, for Siwi ran after each
bullet. His only form of hunting consisted in
dislodging the birds of passage, and still more
in pursuing the edible djarbua. Siwi used to
leave the building in the evening, and it was a
delight to see him rush over the plain and watch
how the swift runner gained on the little gazelle.
On account of their swiftness, the Beduins call
these delicacies, which I often ate, “gazal zughair.”
While the Beduin dog never left the wide region
of the tent, Siwi, when he dared, accompanied all
the rides and even the longer expeditions. When
he felt tired, he howled until some one took him up
on the camel, from which coign of vantage he
surveyed the world, comfortable and well content.
In the evening ride which I took with my cousin,
Siwi was useful as a protection against the dogs in
the stranger tents, who were accustomed to bark
dreadfully at every horseman. It was amusing to
see the white and yellow troop in dozens rushing
from the distance and then suddenly stopping:

they saw an animal such as they had never seen
before. If Siwi ran up to them inquisitive and
amiable, the foe turned on him, and then the dog,
who was by nature a highly nervous creature,
pursued the others in long leaps. But if we met
a flock of sheep, then at the sight of Siwi there
was a general stampede. It happened in Behêret,
the north-west province of the delta, that a herd
of steatopygous sheep, fleeing before Siwi, could
find no other way than to swim across a little
irrigation canal. In the environs of Ezbet el-Menchieh,
a fellah village, situated half in the
desert, Siwi was called “Effendi” by the terrified
people, and there were peasants who actually
believed that the Frankish dog had more intelligence
than his Egyptian colleagues. Very
characteristic, too, is a meeting I had on a
journey to the Gulf of Sollum. Siwi was with
us, and one day a strange caravan came in sight.
It went by at a fair distance, but a man separated
from it and came across the long way to me. He
was sent to ask what sort of an animal Siwi was;
they had been disputing, and some had said it was
too active for a young calf, and others that it was
much too big for a dog.
So Siwi, in contrast to his friends and excellent
watchdogs, Abiad and Amenotep, was a show dog.
When the others lay on guard out in the open

in all weathers, if it was only slightly cold he
asked to be let in. He also disliked the great
heat. On the march he ran in the shade of the
camels, among the excavations he sought out
cool subterranean spaces. His greatest crime
was that he would let no one have anything
to eat until he was satisfied. Among the Beduins
the dog is “unclean,” and is not permitted to
step on the mats on which the people sit, but
Siwi quite unconcernedly lay down on them. He
was later treacherously shot by a terrified fellah,
and as the murder of a dog is reckoned a great
crime among the natives, I offered a reward for
information as to the perpetrator. Many came
and announced that they were on the track, but
nothing certain was established.
It was a great pleasure when visitors came to
Karm Abu Mina, and in the second year of the
excavations it was of frequent occurrence. Besides
men of science, the officers of the English army
formed a large contingent. Many people considered
the expeditions into the desert among
their pleasantest memories of Egypt. At the
head of distinguished names stand the Duke of
Connaught and Lord Cromer's successor, Sir Eldon
Gorst, the uncrowned King of Egypt. High
officials in the ministerial and diplomatic world
also came, and, last but not least, compatriots.

The arrival of the great merchant of Alexandria,
Heinrich Bindernagel, a warm patron of the excavations,
with his wife and son was quite romantic.
The man to whom Germanism in Egypt owes
so much, in whose hospitable house science was
always sure of a welcome, too early fell a victim
to an insidious disease. One dark night they
drew near—I had ridden out to meet them—the
sacred city. A fire burnt in the desert for a guide;
and on our arrival Monsignor Kaufmann had a
salute fired in honour of the first German lady who
visited us. We put our guests in the log-house,
the son sharing our tent, and the Berber servants
that of the Sheikh. After the usual sheep was
slaughtered our people arranged a night improvisation
by the big fire. We, with our guests,
occupied folding chairs. The Beduins formed
their large open semicircle, and began their greeting
with rhythmical hand-clapping, which unexpectedly
was transformed into pantomimic action.
A veiled figure sprang forward in the light of the
flames, and apparently apostrophized the assembly.
Striding from one to the other, and swaying in time
with the sound of the primitive orchestra of hands,
he seemed to be looking for something. His
manner made it clear that the something was his
enemy. So he strode up and down, sometimes
stopping longer at one, and then, in disappointment.

turning to the next. He sought, and at last he
found. He stopped in front of a young Beduin
who, closely wrapped in his burnous, was almost
unrecognizable. The seeker stretched out a dark
hand and seized the folds of the burnous that
were about the head. A young face looked out,
angry and terrified; it is he, the foe who has enticed
his love away. The seeker throws back
his burnous, and stands disclosed, recognized by
all as Haïn Makain of the tribe of the Harabi in
Barca; opposite him stands the slender youth, an
Auladali, the amiable Oâfi Sâle. Haïn's hands
seize the dagger in his belt, but he restrains himself.
Both step into the foreground, the action
grows to a climax, the rest of the Beduins share
the excitement of the disputants, and the clapping
and psalm-like murmuring of the chorus grow
faster every minute. Explanations are demanded.
Oâfi, protesting, bares his breast as if he would
say: “I will tear my heart out of my body before
I can cease to love the brown maid.” Haïn is in
despair: the big, strong Harabi cannot hurt the
weak boy; he must renounce, and go forth into
other lands and strange tents. But the youth
cannot do that, and does not flinch when Haïn
flies at him and throttles him. He must give in,
but the argument of force is in vain. He cannot,
dare not give in. The chorus draws nearer, the

semicircle closes in, as if they would come to the
rescue. The rhythmical clapping grows faster, as
if to keep up with the course of the action, which
goes forward unrestrained. Oâfi, who carries no
weapon, protects himself as well as he can. Haïn
swings his dagger, but often lets his hand fall.
The youth has again shown him his bare breast;
let him stab and then he will have rest. And
again the torture of jealousy and love is renewed,
until the victim falls with a horrible cry. Haïn's
dagger has struck home, and Oâfi must die. He
dies as only great actors die, too beautifully and
too terribly to be true. His enemy sinks down
by his side, covers the dead man with the burnous,
and raises his arms to the dark heavens as if imploring
Allah to hide the deed of blood.
Then suddenly the chorus stops. The play is
over, and our guests were as much affected as we
were, for the Sheikh had arranged the improvisation
of his own accord, so that it was a pleasant
surprise for us. The night quarters in the
Kuschk, the box-like log-house, which included
in its contents skulls and such things, did not
wholly lack what was required in a bedroom, and
was, of course, praised by our kind guests. They
asked about the scratching noise that they heard
under the floor in the middle of the night, and
my cousin gave the good-humoured assurance that

it was only rats, the charming and harmless
djarbua of the desert. Soon after his return
Herr Heinrich Bindernagel described his visit
to the city of Menas in the Egyptian Gazette
under the title of “The Shrine of St. Menas; a
Modern Pilgrimage.”
Original intermezzos were not lacking when
visitors came to the city of Menas. A distinguished
diplomatist, whom I accompanied later to Wadi
Natrûn, spent a night with us in constant fear of
attacks, because one of our sentries fired a shot
to frighten off some one. The arrival of the
first “homâr hadîd” was an amusing event.
Hassan chanced to be on the tower of the Kasr,
and came rushing down out of breath. “Effendi,”
he shouted in the distance, “the iron donkey is
there.” It was during the midday pause, and my
cousin, very curious, hurried up at the strange news.
Sheikh Sadaui explained that it was a bicycle.
Soon after the glittering machine appeared, pushed
by its owner, an English bank director, his ladies
preferring real living donkeys, the strange cavalcade
being completed by a black soldier on a tall white
horse. The iron donkey was stabled in the Kuschk,
which at that time served as kitchen, and Hassan,
who had never before seen the creature that had
often been described to him, did not dare to touch it.
We amused ourselves by telling Hassan that if he

did it would cry out, and taking his black hand, we
pressed it on the hooter. The consequence was
that the man fled at great speed to his mother's
tent. When work was over all the Beduins
who did not know the mysterious machine filed
past the iron donkey. Its owner is one of the most
venturesome visitors to the Mariut Desert; he often
goes on his expeditions alone and unarmed, and
does not object to spending the night in a Beduin
tent. They were often anxious about him in
Another visitor to the city of Menas who used
in the spring to wander alone through the desert
was recognized by our Beduins. They designated
him “root-seeker,” and as they understood nothing
of botany, regarded him as a madman. But the
son of the desert respects a madman as a higher
being, whose mind is with God.

[Back to top]



Abbas Hilmi II of Egypt—The royal caravan—Why the Viceroy
travels—The “crowned fellah” a title of honour—Tabletalk
in the desert—The Sultan's road, the Alexander route
—Reception in the oasis of Siwa—The palm-grove men and
their life—The Egyptian Governor—The prison as darkroom—
Murder of the Mamûr of Siwa, 1910—Flora and
fauna—Mud towns and troglodytes—The Oracle Temple and
other classic ruins—Araschieh, the enchanted lake with
Solomon's crown—From the Fountain of the Sun—Kasr el-Guraîschet—
My ride to Zetûn—Return home—How Umm
Sâd saved my cousin's life.

ON February 4, 1906, a mounted courier brought
a telegram containing an invitation from the
Khedive to take part in his great progress through
the desert to Amonium. So far neither of us had
seen the ruler of the country, nor had any intercourse
with him, but we knew that our proceedings
in Mariut were regularly reported to him, and that
he purposed to visit the excavations at the first



opportunity. The Viceroy's invitation was directed
to Monsignor Kaufmann, and asked which of us
would take the month's journey. It signified a
very great honour for the two German explorers,
and my cousin, who travelled back to Alexandria
with the answer, was everywhere unreservedly
congratulated. The thing was too great a sacrifice
for him. Under no circumstances would he leave
the excavations even for a week, for all the signs
of the discovery of the tomb of St. Menas were at
hand. But he enthusiastically urged it on me,
as if that was necessary, and when he came back
from Alexandria I had only three or four days in
which to study the works of Minutoli, Rohlfs, and
Robecchi-Brichetti, and to make preparations for
the journey. The order to depart came as suddenly
as the invitation from the Eastern potentate.
On February 9th I bade farewell to my cousin, who
now remained in the desert alone with his Beduins.
The viceregal train conveyed me to what was then
the last station, whence an escort brought me in a
ride of eight hours to the automobile garage, in
the centre of Marmarika. When we reached it a
square-built, cheerful-looking gentleman in khaki
dress came to meet me, kindly assisted me to dismount,
and held my horse's bridle. “How do you
do, Herr Falls?” he said in German; “I am
glad to make your acquaintance.” The speaker

was no other than Abbas Hilmi II, Khedive of
Egypt. I was to have the good fortune to know
him for some time more intimately than many who
desired to enlist his favour. It was of practical
advantage to us, in that his officials did us good
service where it was not exactly their duty, and
still more in respect to the natives. The intercourse
with the “Effendine” was not unobserved
by the Beduins, and contributed to our safety.
During the progress through the desert the
Khedive was accompanied by only four Europeans,
among them his doctor, Kautzky Bey. The rest
of the suite consisted of Egyptians and Arabs.
I shared a double tent with a young French
major, Vicomte de St. Exupéré, who was also
travelling as a guest of the Khedive. The endless
caravan was generally on the move the whole day,
the commissariat division hurrying on some hours
in advance, so that the camp was in order when
we arrived, and after making onr toilette the four
Europeans went to the large dining-tent. Here
nothing was lacking, from table silver and fine
damask tablecloths to the dishes which the Berber
cook, Abu Balter, the “father of the hoe,” knew
how to prepare with exquisite art. As a good
Moslem the Khedive drank no wine or spirits and
did not smoke, but he placed no such prohibition
on his guests, and was an excellent host.





Abbas Hilmi II was born July 14, 1874. At
eighteen years of age, while studying at the Ritterakademie
in Vienna, he was called to the throne at
the death of his father, Tewfik Pasha, under whom
Egypt was occupied by the English. The Khedive
is directly descended from Mohammed Ali, the
famous son of a Rumelian guard, the liberator of
Egypt from the rule of the Mamelukes and the
founder in 1841 of the new Khedivial dynasty. A
rare sense of duty and hard industry have made
Abbas Hilmi a ruler who serves as a brilliant
example to all the officials of his country. At the
great State ceremonies and on official occasions he
appears in great pomp in his palaces, equipped
with the luxury of East and West combined, and
always with royal dignity. But he likes to lay all
this aside whenever the business of State allows.
It is not my purpose here to describe his political
activity, which is, of course, much curtailed by the
English occupation and which has evoked various
verdicts according to the different parties and races.
The Khedive does not keep a harem in the Oriental
sense. He lives with two wives only. He has
five children by the Khediva, of whom one is the
Crown Prince, Mohammed Abd el-Moneïn, who is
still a boy. He made a second marriage with an
Austrian lady, who immediately before his journey
to Mecca embraced Islamism.


During the whole of the long and interesting
journey I very seldom saw Abbas Hilmi out of
humour. If his people were awkward in pitching
the tents or watering the beasts, or if any of the
comforts he expected were lacking, he could thunder
in Arabic and swing his kurbâsch in a threatening
manner. But it should be observed that it was
always more on his guests' account than on his
own, for his frugality was exemplary for enterprises
that need a sober, regular way of living. The
evening talk was prolonged. Sometimes Abbas
Hilmi spoke of the political situation of his country,
and he did not conceal the deep discontent with
which he regarded the autocratic—nay, the brusque
—behaviour of Lord Cromer, who treated him as
an executive official, not as an actual ruler. But
his inclination to such frank speaking was unfortunately
soon at an end. One day he said to me,
“Haven't you noticed that Herr N. N. was coolly
taking notes yesterday evening? I must keep
guard on my words even here in the desert, so
we won't talk about politics any more.” As I
often made digressions from the road in order to
survey the route and because my cousin had laid
on me the obligation of looking out for antiquities,
the Khedive put at my disposal, besides my camel,
which on account of his swiftness bore the name
“Naâme” (ostrich), a horse and a mounted Arab,

a former slave-dealer, and, in case of need, a soldier.
The Khedive himself sometimes rode and sometimes
used a kind of light dog-cart, which he as a
real Oriental prince took with him in the desert,
and, as there never lacked fresh horses and men,
in this exceptional case kept up his reputation.
Sometimes I or one of the others took a place in
this amazing vehicle, and his Highness liked to
drive his “drag” himself through the sandy waste.
Abbas Hilmi takes a very great interest in the
domestic economy of his country, especially in the
cultivation of the soil, the breeding of cattle, and
irrigation. He is the chief fellah, the crowned
peasant, a name of honour to which he has full
right and one which his foes in vain mention with
a tinge of contempt. And in my opinion on two
grounds. A true Pharaoh and a warm friend of
his country can scarcely better testify his love for
his subjects than by looking after the conditions of
life on the land, the cultivation of the soil, by making
improvements and laying down new canals and
opening up fresh tracts of country; he who does
this proves himself a son of the Nile, a fellah, in the
sense in which the ancient Egyptians understood it,
on whose heritage the Greeks and Romans were
nourished, and to which they added scarcely anything
essentially new. Secondly, Abbas Hilmi's
decidedly businesslike methods—his speculations,

as his adversaries put it—helped to exclude him
from any political autocracy. Only since Lord
Cromer's resignation in 1907—for Lord Cromer
dominated the young ruler from the moment he
left the Vienna Ritterakademie to ascend his father's
throne—has Abbas Pasha had an opportunity to
govern for himself, if only in a moderate measure.
He was mistrusted by his own subjects, and his
enormous purchases of land not only in Egypt, but
especially on Turkish ground, increased their mistrust.
His pilgrimage to Mecca in 1908 was suspected
to be a political move, a speculation on the
Caliphate; his marriage with the European baroness,
whom I often saw with him in Mariut disguised as
an officer, was taken in bad part, although the lady
was converted to Islamism. It was said that the
children of the first marriage, even the Khediva's
eldest son, Prince Abd el-Moneïn, were to be
excluded from the succession to the throne. And
lately it has been insinuated that Abbas Hilmi's
last purchase of land in South Caria points to his
desire to abdicate. Land has been obtained for
him there to the value of at least £2,000,000,
land which with irrigation will be worth a hundredfold.
Thus the progress to Amonium, to the mysterious
oasis of Siwa, on the western borders of his empire,
was dictated chiefly by commercial interests. Two

questions occupied the chief place: first, is there in
the region of that desert oasis land capable of
cultivation; and, second, would it be worth while to
construct a branch line of railway from the Marmarika
port, Mirsa Matru, to Siwa, which would
sweep in the date exportation and a portion of the
African oasis trade? It may be said at once that
both questions for the present must be answered in
the negative, but may be worth discussing in the
not very distant future. That future will come
nearer the quicker the incomparably easier and, for
Egypt, more essential task of reclaiming the old
north-west provinces of Mariut and Marmarika
from the desert is successful, when they will again
become the flourishing paradise of gardens they
were formerly. On the other hand, the Viceroy's
bold project of cultivating the Amon oasis will win
greater importance in the course of time, the more
profitable a similar undertaking in the south-west
of his empire turns out to be—namely, the opening
up of the oasis of El-Khargeh and Dachel. There
the Government of Egypt shows great activity. It
has built a railway from the Nile to the oasis,
opened up wells and admirable cultivable land, and
to all appearance mining and the working of minerals
will play a part. It is hoped to come on coal,
cobalt, sulphate of magnesium, ochre, phosphates;
beds of clay have already been found, and along

the desert railway rich strata of marble. Monsignor
Kaufmann has shown the important part
played by this oasis in antiquity, especially in
Christian times, in his interesting little book, “Ein
alt-Christliches Pompeji in der Libyschen Wüste.”1
1 Mainz, 1902.
That more elaborate desert railways are within
the bounds of possibility in the future is further
proved by the Mecca railway, that with the aid
of Mohammedan money already goes as far as
Medina, and the preparations that are gaining way
for the project of the
Sahara railway. For the
latter three routes are proposed and partly tested:
from Igli to the Niger, from the oasis of Biskra to
Lake Tschad, and the shortest, from the military
port of Biserta to Lake Tschad. The question is
even being discussed of continuing it from Lake
Tschad through Bilma to the French Congo and
the Atlantic coast.
Abbas Hilmi is a direct contrast to his predecessor,
Ismaïl Pasha, whose name modern Egypt
has surrounded with all the magic splendour of the
East, the opener-up of the sea route to India, the
man to pay homage to whom men of science and
explorers made a pilgrimage to the Nile. I need
only mention the name of Rohlfs, the intrepid
and thorough explorer of the Libyan Desert, the
expenses of whose caravan were paid with viceregal

money. The reigning Pharaoh has very little
time for scientific problems. Egyptologists know
something about that, for his first question in reference
to our excavations—“What is Monsignor
Kaufmann paid for his work?”—tells everything.
He asked me whether we would not later excavate
at Siwa, where he alone could assist, and probably
the find would pay for the outlay. Although that
was very doubtful, the suggestion betrays the
tradesman rather than the patron of science. The
thing in itself was very risky, both on the score of
health and the hostility of the Siwa people, and
was anyway more in the domains of Egyptology.
His Highness told me later that M. M. von
Mathuiseulx purposed making use of the permission
to excavate. But I think that the distinguished
North African traveller seriously reconsidered
the matter when he paid a visit to the oasis.
So then it was for fairly prosaic reasons that the
Viceroy wished to learn something of the western
borders of his country, and was the first prince of
Egypt since the days of Alexander the Great to
traverse the route to the place of the oracle in the
heart of the desert.
The actual way through the desert was begun at
Mirsa Matru. The royal caravan consisted of a
vanguard of 62 camels and Arabs with 20 mounted
soldiers; in its chief division there were 288 camels,

22 horses, and 28 mounted men as a bodyguard,
under the command of a dark-skinned Mameluke,
a young officer always seen driving alone in a
special carriage immediately behind the gala coach
in the Khedive's ceremonial processions in Cairo.
The chief part of the baggage was provisions and
tents. We carried good Cairo water in 120 iron
chests and 100 gheerbahs. Sixteen tents sufficed
for his Highness and his suite, three more for the
horse drivers, draught camel drivers, and servants.
Large numbers of live sheep and fowls were stowed
away, and an immense quantity of fodder for all
the animals was carried.
It takes seven days to cross the desert from
Mirsa Matru, the port of Marmarika, five of which
are through a sea of sand absolutely without vegetation
and with very few wells. It could be done
more quickly without a caravan. Officers of the
Egyptian coastguard have a record of doing the
distance in four or four and a half days.
The route still bears the name of Sikke es-Sultani,
the Sultan's route, by whom is meant no
other than Alexander the Great, who marched
along it twenty-two centuries before we did. I
have described our march in detail in my book,
Siwa, die Oase des Sonnengottes in der Libyschen
Wüste,” and can only give a brief account of
it here. From the mounds of ruins of ancient



Paraetonium (Mirsa Matru) we proceeded through
Wadi Raml to Bir Goaiferi, past Dschebel Judar
and Dschebel Taref into the stony desert. Then
through the Pass of Kanaïs over diluvial oysterbeds
and reefs to the four wells, Bir Lahafen, Bir
Hakfet eggelâs, Bir hêlu, and Bir istable. Bir
hêlu, the “freshwater” well, is the last station
before Daffa and Hamraje, the region of heat and
the red earth. Thence the road goes south in
sight of the Coffin and Table Mountains to Ras
el-Hamraje, and with seven steep ascents to Ghart
el-Hanûn. We reached the borders of the oasis
on the seventh day; the queen of African oases
lay before us like enchanted ground, a depression
exactly thirty yards below the level of the Mediterranean.
Endless palm forests with shining silver
lakes lie in the depression, and the strong rock
walls of the Libyan plateau stand in a wide circle
and under the burning sun look like high ranges
of mountains. They are the high mountains of
the west mentioned in the ancient temple inscriptions,
and the oasis, to traverse which takes a
day, is the country of the palm-grove men, the
Sechet-am of the Egyptians.
Our entry at the head of the enormous caravan
was an unforgettable sight. A living palm fence
three miles in length marked the Via Triumphalis.
Women enveloped in draperies, swinging palm-branches,

and shouting their welcome with a
thousand voices, stood on the dark, flat roofs of
the capital, the serrated mud houses of which
stretched up to the sky like a high-towered troglodyte
citadel. The Khedive, escorted by his bodyguard
in state uniform, rode first and we closely
followed him. As we neared the town, plundered
by Mohammed Ali in 1820, and the Senussi
mosque that resembled a fortress, we found the
native Sheikh, a deputation of Senussi, and the
Egyptian Governor with his small garrison, forming
a large square ready to receive us. The fluttering
Arab banners, the wild native music, in
which the drum and tom-tom prevailed, the chanting
of the dark swaying figures on the roofs of
Siwa, combined with the waving of palm-branches
many yards in length, made a beautiful and harmonious
picture. But discord was not lacking.
The men in fluttering white burnous and narrow
turbans, the bronze-coloured monks, greeted Effendine
in silence and with ceremonious coldness. On
their faces might be read curiosity and compulsion
mingled with hatred, unconcealed hatred of the
descendant of the plunderer whom no real native of
Siwa unreservedly recognizes as master. I saw
clearly that Abbas Hilmi could only make his
position felt in this corner of his kingdom by display
of an unusual kind, and that his bodyguard was

more than ornament here—it was a real defence
and protection.
The people of Siwa are a Semitic mixed race
of negro blood crossed with the light-coloured
ancient Libyan race. They number about six
thousand, and their cultivated land, much less
than in the times of antiquity, is rather more than
2 miles in extent, while the whole oasis measures
about 31 miles. Extensive salt lakes and salt
morasses occur in the fertile ground, which is
divided into fresh and salt earth, the value of which
depends on the number of springs by which each
property and the whole country is provided with
The true native of Siwa is distinguished by
hatred of the foreigner and by laziness; he leaves
the cultivation of the ground to the negro and the
freed slave. Slavery flourishes latently, but the
slave markets are no longer held in Siwa, but in
Dscharabub, close by. Sales from hand to hand,
however, go on as before. I was myself offered
a handsome negro at a comparatively low price.
The administration of the land, which has several
districts, is carried on by native notables, who also
collect the palm tax, the tribute for Egypt. The
Mamûr of Siwa, the Egyptian police officer, who
resides there as Governor and is changed every
four years, has to see that there is external peace,

and represents in some degree the Egyptian title
of possession. His post is by no means an easy
one, and with emotion he told me his troubles.
He only ventures in very rare cases to execute
justice, and the drugs in his medicine-chest go bad,
for no dweller in the oasis will let himself be
“poisoned”! When we asked him if he could
show us a suitable place for a dark-room for our
photographs, he at once set his prisoners free and
gave up the dungeon to us. The armed force consisted
of fifty soldiers, who hold the fanatical natives
of the oasis in check. They had lately attempted
a rebellion and murdered the Mamûr. A general
rising was to follow the murder, but fortunately
the leader, Sheikh Suliman Habûn, and fifty
rebels were seized, put in irons and brought
to Alexandria for trial.
It goes without saying that during the days of
our stay in the oasis I never went out without a
guard, but I had the good fortune to meet a young
native who had for a short time been engaged in
our excavations at the city of Menas; he spoke
favourably of me, and so I succeeded in discovering
some antiquities, among others a lion's head of the
Roman period, which the Viceroy presented to me
for the Frankfort Museum.
Siwa would be a paradise were it not for malaria,
which, except in the three or four winter months,


renders a long sojourn impossible for Europeans.
That disease, although the natives are unconscious
of the fact, forms their best protection against
civilization. No guns or cannons can do anything
against the myriads of mosquitoes which disseminate
the disease. But the natives themselves
are by no means immune from attacks of malaria.
Pale skins, dark-rimmed eyes, and the languid ways
of many natives are symptoms not to be mistaken.
Rohlfs thought that drainage and irrigation might
be helpful.
The export of dates mentioned by Wanslebius,
the humanist, forms the main part of the trade and
exchange of the oasis. There are over 200,000
palms, 160,000 of which bear fruit and have an
annual value of about £12,500. The exportation
takes place in the winter months, and is entirely in
the hands of the Auladali Beduins, whose caravans
then number as many as one hundred camels. As
the largest of the date caravans from Siwa to
Alexandria used the route through the city of
Menas, we were able to purchase our dates direct
from the camels' backs. For a hundredweight of
the finest, sweetest Abu Tauwîl, a sort scarcely
ever-seen in the European markets, as long as the
forefinger, we paid at Karm Abu Mina rather less
than five shillings; in Alexandria it would cost
twelve shillings, and in Europe at least £2 or £2 Ios.,

so fine a fruit is it. The date-tree also gives palm
wine and vinegar, and its bast serves for making
coarse and fine mats, baskets, and domestic utensils.
Not only human beings there feed on dates, but
the dry, poor sorts are used almost exclusively as
food for camels, horses, donkeys, and dogs. Other
products, like olives, maize, corn, sugar-cane,
haschisch, bersîm, pepper, and tobacco do not
supply one-half the consumption. But what could
be done with the ground is shown by the gardens
of rich Sheikhs, and especially those of the Senussi
monks, where, with figs, oranges, and apricots, even
the difficult African vine flourishes luxuriantly.
The chief articles brought back in exchange by the
date caravans from the valley of the Nile or from
Tripoli (Bengasi) are powder, arms, stuffs, tea,
sugar, and coffee. The chief caravan trade is in
the hands of the Auladali Beduins, who have to
deliver up their arms when they enter the oasis.
In the songs, Siwa is called a land rich in
donkeys, because other domestic animals, even
camels and oxen, flourish ill on a regime of dates.
These donkeys, whose ancestors belonged to the
Saite, in their accomplishments rival the ships of
the desert. Who has ever climbed on the back of
a Cairo donkey up the rocky walls of Mokkatam
to the heights of the Arabian Desert, and then
ridden through the desert to the well of Moses,

must admire the security and endurance, the graceful
gait, and the cleverness of the Saïte breed. To
him it will not seem so incredible when I say that
a native of Siwa will at need make the week's
journey through the desert alone with his donkey.
A bag of dates forms their common food, and a
small gheerbah is refilled at the few springs met
with on the way. In far-off days of antiquity
extensive journeys were taken in the desert on the
back of a donkey. It is told in the Berlin hieratic
Papyrus 2 of an inhabitant of the Natrûn valley
who used to take salt and figs on his donkey to
the market of Chineu-Seteu (Heracleopolis) and
also to a town 68 miles south of Cairo! He
had no need to touch the capital, and could ride
in a south-easterly direction through the sporadically
cultivated Wadi Faregh. But even so it was a
very respectable journey, involving several days'
As a rule the fauna of the oasis corresponds with
that of the north-east portion of the Libyan Desert.
The most important larger animals are hyenas,
gazelles, jackals, and farther in the interior of
the desert ostriches are found. Frogs inhabit
the waters of the oasis. The most remarkable
animal is a little fish, cyprinodon, which is so
plentiful that it is occasionally eaten as food by the
Beduins, but not by the natives of Siwa. Zittel,

a member of the Rohlfs expedition, diagnosed the
little creature as the same that is caught in the
streams of Algeria and in the Venetian lagoons, and
the distinguished Munich scholar was inclined to
regard the cyprinodon as a relic of the Sahara
The caravan trade of the Auladali Beduins has
made the oasis accessible to the Arabs. But the
native idiom, the well-sounding Siwi language,
still prevails, and the office of interpreter, which is
hereditary in certain families, has, as formerly, a
certain importance. The Siwi language belongs
to the Berber dialects. Several European travellers
have since Minutoli compiled Siwi vocabularies,
but there is as yet no satisfactory
The towns of Siwa are strong, almost inaccessible
mud citadels, in which it is exceedingly
difficult to find one's way, for the streets are roofed
with palm-trunks on account of the sun, and are
dark on the brightest day. The towns stand on a
rock foundation, and when you come out again into
the open air you look over the many-storied flat sea
of roofs to the dark green beauty of the palm
forests, the silver and purple-red salt lakes, the
whole framed by the cliffs of the desert plateau.
Formerly there was only one gate or entrance into
a Siwa town. Even to-day the entrances are



strictly guarded at night, and woe to the stranger,
even if he be a son of the desert, who ventures to
make his way in at night. The principal towns of
the oasis are Siwa and Agermi; then come the
smaller open towns, Sbûche, Edarra, and Menschije,
and quite in the east, Zetûn. In the middle of
summer the wealthier natives leave the town and
exchange their mud house for an airier dwelling in
the mountains. The “hill of the dead,” with its
ancient Egyptian necropolis, from which I abducted
a collection of remarkable skulls for the Frankfort
Museum, serves as a villeggiatura. The poorer
natives and the foreigners who are suffered to take
up their abode in the town dwell always in the
tomb chambers of the Dschebel el-Beled belonging
to Siwa. Although the furniture consists merely of
a mat of palm-bast, they form by no means a bad
place of residence. For excavators who do not
prefer to live in the Governor's Mamurije, a
thing that makes them many enemies, some large
communicating tomb chambers were cleaned out,
and they made an ideal dwelling-house.
The first question of the European who visits
Siwa is for the famous sanctuary of the Sun-god,
to whose oracle and fame the ancients, from
Herodotus to the time of the sanctuaries of Menas—
they have with more or less right been called the rival
Christian foundation—have testified. The titular

god of the sanctuary was the ram-headed Amon-Ra
or Jupiter Amon, after whose temple the whole
oasis was named Amoniurn. Temple inscriptions
call him “existence in itself, whose legs are like
silver, whose skin is like gold, whose hair is like
sapphire, whose horns are like emerald,” and praise
him as heaven and the creator of all things. The
oracle was famous throughout the world, the
words of the god were revealed to the priests,
who carried his statue on a golden bark, by the
swaying to and fro of the image. From Craesus
onwards rulers and nations asked counsel of the
oracle of the desert. But the greatest of these
was Alexander the Great, who came in person at
the head of an enormous caravan, and whom the
chief of the eighty priests led into the Holy of
holies as the son of Amon-Ra, and there gave him
the still unknown answer of the god. That it
was favourable may be easily affirmed. It was
Alexander's wish to be buried in the oasis of
Jupiter Amon. But the adventurous convoy with
the magnificent funeral carriage only went as far
as Memphis, and even there the grave of the great
ruler was disturbed by Ptolemy Philadelphos and
the mummy taken to Alexandria.
The identity of the temple of the oracle with one
of the ancient buildings of the oasis is not absolutely
certain. Since James Hamilton, the Scottish

traveller, saw in 1853 the ruins of a large
Egyptian temple on the chalk rocks of the town
of Agermi, that is pointed to as the sanctuary
of the oracle. Those ruins are so built in between
dwelling-houses that even Steindorff, the Leipzig
Egyptologist, who visited the oasis a few years
before us, did not succeed in determining the
ground plan of the smoke-coloured sanctuary with
its reliefs and hieroglyphics.
Other ruins too, like the limestone blocks of
Umm Bêda, were claimed to be the temple of Jupiter
Amon. We found only six of the columns with
hieroglyphics and pictures that were there sixty
years ago. Nearly all the ancient ruins in the
oasis are connected with the legend. So there is
a story of the subterranean “Christian houses,”
which means catacombs, in contrast to the underground
tomb chambers of the heathens. But the
most extravagant is the tradition of the people
of Siwa about the Lake of Araschieh, in the northwest
of the oasis, now quite lost, the barren bank of
which no one could approach unharmed, until the
spell was accidentally removed through the conquest
of Siwa by Mohammed Ali. Treasure was
said to be buried in the island of the lake, nothing
less than the Prophet's ring and sword and King
Solomon's crown. Butin, a French explorer, went
through the desert in 1813 with a portable boat in

order to discover this Nibelung treasure, and his
rash enterprise nearly cost him his life.
The ancient world had its oasis miracle, the socalled
Lake of Amon, or “Fountain of the Sun,”
about which Herodotus tells. In the morning the
remarkable spring is tepid, at market time cooler,
and at midday cold. In that stage of its temperature
the water was used to irrigate the fields under
cultivation. About evening the water became
warmer again; at sunset tepid, and at midnight
boiling hot. The enigma, which both ancient and
modern students of science have sought to explain,
has never been solved, if the fairly modern tradition
is followed which identifies a pretty spring of Siwa,
surrounded by palms, Aïn Hamâm, the “Dove
Spring,” with the Lake of Amon. Aïn Hamâm, like
other small bathing and irrigating pools, such as the
Spring of Moses, Aïn Mûsa, Aïn Ben Lîf, was
originally on the foundation of an ancient artificial
tank. All those springs are to be reckoned among
the fresh thermal waters of the oasis, which not only
the inhabitants of the palm-groves but serious
scholars of our day, among them Professor Schweinfurth,
the Nestor of German African explorers,
regard as a subterranean supply to the Nile. There
were several hundreds of them in ancient times; now
there are about one hundred and fifty in the whole
of the oasis. Abbas Hilmi specially desired to have


these various springs analysed in order to determine
their use for projects of irrigation. Dr. Bitter was
to conduct the analyses at Cairo, and by desire of
the Viceroy I myself assisted at the taking of the
specimens. I also followed Monsignor Kaufmann's
advice and registered the temperature at
different times of the day and evening. At Aïn
Hamâm and others of the same class I obtained
nothing essentially different from what Rohlfs gave,
an average of 84°-85° Fahr. for the different times.
I inquired among the natives if no tradition or
no particular spring came nearer the tales of the
ancients than Aïn Hamaâm, and learnt that a spring
designated as “bigger” existed at some little
distance from the capital, and as an ancient castle
(Kasr) was named in the neighbourhood, an important
new discovery seemed possible.
An extra expedition to Zetûn, which Rohlfs
avoided on account of the fanaticism of its inhabitants,
and which, but I did not know this at the
time, Steindorff had visited on his return journey,
took me to the mysterious castle called by the
natives Kasr el-Guraischet. The Khedive put
soldiers, camels, and horses at my disposal, and
after three and a half hours' ride in the direction
which leads to Abu Schrûf we reached the Kasr,
relics of a temple of the Graeco-Egyptian period,
with a large field of ruins bordering on it, where I

found all sorts of minor antiquities. This biggest
spring of Siwa was quite close to the temple. Surrounded
by rushes and tall grass, it measured fifty
paces in circumference and lost itself in the marshy
ground. The chief stream feeds the large falls of
Lake Magrari. The powerful spring of Kasr el-Guraîschet
throws up water of an equal day and
night temperature of 85° Fahr.; in the streams
that flow off this sinks to 83° and 80°, and somewhat
lower at night. As the ancients had no
instruments for the absolute measuring of heat, they
were relegated to subjective impressions. But in
Siwa and the desert the difference between the day
and night temperature is so great that the water of
Kasr el-Guraïschet—and the other waters of the
oasis in a less degree—although its temperature
actually sinks several degrees at night, would feel
quite extraordinarily warm. It would only be
possible to determine if the thermal springs of Kasr
el-Guraîschet were the real Sun springs by making
excavations on the spot, just as excavation alone
could identify the real sanctuary of the oracle of
Amonium with some particular ruins of the oasis.
I had pitched my camp near the temple of Kasr
el-Guraîschet, and my native guide was terribly
alarmed when I ordered the military escort to
encamp, while I myself, leaving the tents and
camels, went in the night to Zetûn. He had to

yield and hazard the ride with me. Through fever-engendering
sebach, the marshy domains of mosquitoes,
we reached the hamlet of Abu Schrûf and
after sunrise the cultivated district of Zetûn. Nearly
all the inhabitants are negroes, descendants of
slaves who belonged to the founder of the Senussi
brotherhood, whose local chief received me kindly,
and, as I brought the Khedive's greeting, entertained
me with much ceremony. I was glad when
I could turn my back on the monastery. The
Sheikh of Senussia gave me his son to show me
everything, and here, as in other such surveys, a
large escort of curious hangers-on was not wanting.
The black faces watched me with the greatest suspicion,
although for this expedition I had exchanged
the tropical helmet for the fez, and I confess that
more than once my heart beat faster when I took
specimens of water from the springs, for the fellows
might think I was mixing poison and witchcraft
with their precious gift of God-in order to destroy
it. I spent half a day at Zetûn, and on the homeward
ride had a most pleasant surprise. An
imposing troop of riders came towards us, and as
we could soon distinguish horses, we knew it to be
no hostile company. It was Abbas Hilmi himself
who had come out to fetch me, and I am still
uncertain whether some of my escort left behind at
Kasr el-Guraîschet had alarmed the Viceroy, for the

manner in which I carried out my visit to Zetûn
was something of a risk.
During our sojourn in the oasis came royal
couriers with letters for the Khedive and news
from Karm Abu Mina. There my cousin had been
in great danger, but at the same time he told me
that all had gone well, and that there was no need
for me to be anxious. All the same I was glad
when news from the Government caused the
Khedive to end the expedition sooner than he had
originally intended. There is little fresh to record
about our return, except that we passed the small
uninhabited oasis of Gatara, and it so pleased
Abbas Hilmi that he determined to settle it, and
to instruct his engineers to make a road in the
steep slopes of the plateau, in a depression of which
it was sunk. When we reached Mirsa Matru, I
could restrain myself no longer, and asked his
Highness to allow me to travel as swiftly as
possible to the city of Menas. But a Government
yacht lay in the harbour, and as that would be
quicker than the camels, thanks to the Viceroy's
kindness, after taking a cordial farewell of him, I
steamed off on the direct route to Alexandria, and
to the surprise of all reached Karm Abu Mina
unannounced and knocked at my cousin's door at
For the future, I always greeted the Khedive


whenever he came to Mariut or Marmarika. He
stopped his train longer in Bahig in order to receive
me, and I was also his guest in his little palace at
Amriah, and read our occasional little publications
to him, among which my ethnological articles in the
Frankfurter Zeitung specially interested him.
During my long absence my cousin had made
important discoveries, and above all had found the
tomb of St. Menas. Smiling, he told me how on
the day after my departure his Beduins revolted,
and how thankful he was that in the excitement of
the moment he had not given way to anger. A
single shot, even if only fired to strike terror, would
have sealed his fate. “Then you would have
buried me in the great basilica,” said the explorer,
who owed his life to a Beduin woman. I will content
myself with repeating here a brief account
of the event which first appeared in 1906 in
the report of the excavations published at Cairo.
In describing the potter's ovens and furnaces
then discovered, Monsignor Kaufmann writes as
follows: “I must not neglect here to record the
courage which a Beduin woman showed on the
day of the wicked destruction of these ovens.
Falls, my assistant, had on February 9th gone to
the Khedive's camp in order to take part as his
guest in his expedition to Siwa. Early the next
day I observed Beduin horsemen and numerous

persons with rifles in the distance, who, when the
people set out for the works, barred the road,
ostensibly on account of tribal disputes, but in
truth in order to vent their anger on the Effendi
who remained behind. The situation was made
worse by the absence of a Sheikh whom we had
dismissed a few weeks before, and through my
threat to dismiss on the spot every workman who
did not go to the basilica. Seventy refused and
were dismissed; the rest went to work and we
placed armed sentries. A stone flew past me
occasionally, but the rebels remained at a respectful
distance from my revolver. From the Kom I
saw the only woman who had remained behind,
wife of a spy, saddle my roan, and gallop off in
the direction of Amriah, the seat of the Markaz.
Scarcely four hours later she returned with a
detachment of Sudanese on white horses, and later
came the police officer from Bahig, who had been
telephoned to, with his soldiers. As it was difficult
to identify the attacking party (a Beduin never
betrays a Beduin), the Sheikhs of the whole district
were made personally responsible for the safety of
the Effendi, and thus diplomatically peace was
restored. The only victims of the whole affair were
the three ovens. The four hours' ride of the Beduin
woman to Amriah was doubly courageous when we
learnt that shortly after she gave birth to a girl.”

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Natural piety and superstition—The world of spirits—How I
caught an Afrite—The ghost of the temple of Menas—
“Saints,” of the Auladali—Dervish experiments—Primitive
serpents and scorpions—Mecca pilgrims—Mecca caravans
in the interior of Africa—The Senussi and Pan-Islamism—
Sidi el-Mahdi, the mysterious lord of the desert—Wedding
at Karm Abu Mina—Birth and death in the desert—Hospitality
and vendetta—The Mâd—A nose for a nose—
Haschisch smuggling—Slavery.

THE son of the desert is deeply religious and
dependent almost unconsciously on certain prescriptions
of Islam in their outward forms. Most
of the people, on account of their nomad life and
their struggle with nature, are only acquainted with
the main features of the doctrine of their religion,
and so are inclined to place too much trust in the
few of them they learnt in a certain theological
grounding at school, and they use their knowledge
for reasons of business. Their ignorance makes
them too easily fanatical and the victims of exaggeration,
especially in respect to the belief in spirits,

a belief deeply planted in the hearts of Oriental
and savage nations.
Prayer is the central point of the Beduin practice
of religion; it is decreed as a rule three times a
day: at dawn, noon, and sunset. More prayertimes
are only observed in the month Ramadhan.
In the desert sand is often used for the prescribed
ablutions. The person praying arranges an open
circle of stones as his mosque, and, turning to the
east, performs his devotions. Nothing hinders the
believer from the practice of his religion. During
the progress of a caravan, heedless of the others,
he dismounts and prostrates himself; Mecca pilgrims
who pass through large towns are seen to
spread their praying carpets in the streets and
squares full of traffic. In order to prevent the
disturbance of work, the head of the excavations
at Karm Abu Mina ordered that prayers were
only to be said in the pauses. The Beduins
erected a round building of the height of a man
out of fragments of limestone and marble, with
a large rush mat inside, in the centre of a smooth
piece of ground where once grew the vines of
St. Menas. That was their mosque.
The Beduins and many Orientals put many
Christians to shame as regards candour of confession
and regularity of prayer and in their
conduct during the fast of Ramadhan. During

that month nothing may be eaten or drunk from
dawn to sunset. Even smoking is forbidden. In
the Nile valley the rulers make the thing easy,
inasmuch that work is reduced as far as possible.
The State shows consideration, and as the merchants
close their business during a large part of the
day, the officials, even the Ministers, have only a
few hours' work. We excavators regarded the approach
of the fast of Ramadhan with great anxiety.
On the one hand nearly all the workpeople
would absent themselves, and on the other, the
fast always increased fanaticism. But most of our
people remained industriously at work. On account
of the heat and dust, thirst was more torturing than
hunger, for which they compensated themselves
at night. Towards evening the Beduin women
began to cook the food and put the drinking-water
ready. As the sun began to set some ascended the
tower of the Kasr, the excavation buildings, in
order to await the end of the twilight; the younger
people stood below with paper or chips, ready at
the first shout of “kalas!” from above— “The fast
is over”—to light their cigarettes or take the first
drink of water.
As a rule only the older ones prayed. Youths
had no part in it, for in the desert prayer was
regarded as a privilege of the men, a privilege
in which women only share when they are old.

Spontaneous prayer took place during the excavations
in the city of Menas when it was a question
of dangerous undertakings. Before the setting up
of heavy columns, when twenty to thirty men were
occupied with the base and the ropes, the Fatha
(the opening sentences of the Koran) were spoken
in chorus with hands raised to heaven: “Praise
be to God, Lord of the Worlds! The compassionate,
the merciful! King on the day of reckoning!
Thee only do we worship, and to Thee do
we cry for help. Guide Thou us on the straight
path, the path of those to whom Thou hast been
gracious, with whom Thou art not angry, and who
go not astray.”
No workman descended into a subterranean
vault or cistern without first kneeling in prayer.
The behaviour of the people during the many years
I observed them makes me believe in the real,
strong, inborn piety of the Beduin, a piety which is
shown in everyday life. If a man mounts his horse
or camel, he does it in the name of God; every important
action is accompanied by a “bism Allah.”
If the Beduin woman puts meat in the saucepan,
feeds her child, hands a weapon, she does it in the
name of the Most High. When I asked what the
Beduin had in mind when he made that invocation,
I was told: “God blesses everything, and every
act only succeeds if it is Allah's will.” And so it

results that in the desert at least faith in God is
strong and living, although the boundary line between
faith and superstition is not always clear. For
there are many relations with the spirit world, and
especially the evil spirits and the devil, the Afrîte.
Those evil spirits form the chief source of income
of the Fiki, the man who can read the Koran and
exorcize spirits and heal the sick with verses from
it. The wise Fiki is summoned, he is told everything,
entertained according to the means of his
host, writes a verse of the Koran on a scrap of
paper, which is sewed up in a little linen or leather
bag and worn as an amulet. The price of this
assistance is according to the possessions of the
seeker of it, a small sum of money or natural
The Fiki, a name by which the teacher of
the Koran is usually designated, is generally a
wanderer, a Maghrabi, an Arab from Tunis,
Algiers, or elsewhere in the West. His passage
from the Koran, which is sometimes written on a
stone or a fragment of pottery, is called Heschâb.
When he treats the sick or plays the Hakîm
(doctor), his first question is usually, “Who has
bewitched him?” or “Who has written anything
for him?” For the power of the Heschâb
influences even the absent.
Spirits and devils dwell in forsaken spots in the

desert and wherever ancient ruins of any extent
are found. The magic lakes of the fata Morgana
are “devil's water,” and are generally called
“sraf.” Windspouts, which nearly always follow
in the wake of the chamsin storm and make an
impression of grandeur if they can be observed
from the beginning throughout their progress (often
in serpentine curves), as was possible from the
excavation buildings in the city of Menas, are
called “spirit winds.” I was taken to half-ruined
cisterns where I could “hear” the spirit. A stone
was thrown down, and bats or pigeons buzzed or
fluttered about in the depths.
I will only allude here to some among my many
experiences which show the Beduin belief in spirits.
One evening our cook, Eluâni, scared and pale,
entered the summer tent we were then occupying,
and reported that there was an Afrîte close by.
We had sent him to make a round and see that
no unauthorized person was loitering in the excavated
city. I was desirous of at last making
acquaintance with a ghost, and asked what he
looked like. He said a shadow had just passed
him and then a light shone in front of him, and
that it remained fixed in one spot. I took down
my gun, but Eluâni forbade me to take it, as an
Afrîte must not be approached with a bunduk.
As I always carried a revolver, there was not much

risk, and I followed him to the spot. It was in
the basilica of the Emperor Arcadius. As we
approached we really saw a little bright light in
the midst of the ruinous blocks of limestone. I
approached carefully, recognized what it was, and
boldly grasped it. The light instantly ceased, for
the lampyris, a fairly big firefly, was caught. I
had caught the ghost, went home in triumph, and
entered one of the tents where numerous persons
had assembled, all eagerly curious. Eluâni told
the story; I opened my hand, showed and explained
the creature, and asked: “Now, do you still believe
in your Afrîte?” But I withdrew, crestfallen, when
I was answered in all seriousness: “Effendi, the
Afrîte was actually there, but it changed itself into
an insect, and if you had tried to kill it you would
not have been sitting here with us in the tent.”
The following story illustrates how it was with
the ghost of the city of Menas (Afrîte Bumna)
before our arrival, and before the discovery of
the sanctuaries. As we have seen above, a Beduin
Sheikh named Schuchân had pitched his tent near
the holy city. He and his sons avoided the sea of
stones under which the holy city of the desert lay
buried as far as possible. But during the winter
months fine herbage grew on the numerous mounds
of ruins, which Schuchân's camels eagerly sought
as food. It thus chanced that one evening the

Beduin unthinkingly took the shorter road through
the stones in order to look after his herds. Suddenly,
a few steps in front of him, he saw a bearded
man with a pale face, who looked out motionless
from among the fallen blocks of stone. The son
of the desert managed to preserve his coolness
when for the first time he saw the apparition so
often talked of round the evening fire. He took
up a stone with a threatening gesture, and called
to his sons, who were looking after the camels near
by. But before the help arrived he began to hurl
big blocks of stone at the “devil of Bumna.” And
when the young men came up and assisted with
all their might, the ghost vanished, and was seen
neither the next morning nor ever again, at least
until the day when Schuchân showed the memorable
place to the Frankfort excavators, and with
difficulty they made him understand that his Afrîte
was a valuable white marble statue, which he had
entirely destroyed. Later on we found the pieces.
If on that occasion the devil of Bumna played
the future excavators a bad turn through the
destruction of a marble statue, it once unconsciously
did them a great favour. A “saint,” Abd el-Kader,
the same in whose honour the first station of the
Mariut railway is named, came to Bumna soon
after the rising of Arabi Pasha, and, induced by
the splendid building material lying about, wanted

to erect a Zauja and a mosque. Naturally he
sought to procure water and to put an ancient
cistern into working order. Then one evening
the Bumna Afrîte warned him not to dig further.
But Sidi Abd el-Kader did not heed the mysterious
voice, and the next day his slave was found dead
in the cistern. He was killed by a falling block
of stone, but everybody saw the hand of the Afrîte
in the event. The slave was named Abd er-Rahman,
and came from Fessan. He was buried on a hill of
the city of Menas, and the inscription on his tomb
is now in the Frankfort Museum.
Abd el-Kader is honoured to-day as one of the
principal saints of the Beduins. I take for granted
that it is known that Islam has formed a cult of
saints and martyrs. Nearly every little town has
its Sheikh, a word that means elder, and also saint
as well as chief. It is mostly on the outskirts of
the desert that the little cupola of the tomb of a
saint is to be seen shining in the sun. Such a
tomb of a Sheikh, Sidi el-Fakir, honoured by
the Beduins, may be seen from the city of Menas
enthroned on a high ridge; it forms a landmark
of the caravan route to Alexandria. When caravans
or travellers approach the saint's tomb, they
all dismount in order to say a short prayer, and
if there is need for haste, it may be said from the
saddle. The chapel of the tomb is full of votive

offerings, weapons, etc.; packed up tents and all
sorts of implements and utensils lie around without
guard, belonging to Beduins who have to wander
afar, and who will find everything safe and in good
order on their return. For the saint prevents
robbery by enchanting the thieves so that they
cannot stir from the spot. The people firmly
believe this.
The principal saints of the Auladali are the
Sheikhs Sidi Auen, Sidi Abd er-Rahman, Sidi Bu
Driha, Sidi Bu Schaifa, and the still living Sheikh
Sidi Achmêda. Great improvisations take place
on their festivals: Beduins with their wives and
children come in holiday attire, tents are pitched
in the sacred district, and the sports and feasting,
in which the descendants of the saint play the
chief part, sometimes last for days. If the saint
performs a miracle, thanksgivings and feasts are
held. Such an event during the excavations once
cost us a sheep. One of the men digging near
the principal portal of the monastery suddenly
sank in the ground before any one could help,
and heavy blocks of limestone and pieces of
marble fell on top of him and entirely buried
him. Sheikh Sadaui saw the accident from an
eminence, and loudly implored help from the Saint
Abd er-Rahman. We hurried up, and it was
a long time before the masses of stone could

be removed, especially as a neighbouring wall
threatened to fall down and had to be secured.
Monsignor Kaufmann and I felt quite certain
that the workman would be dead, and we too
thanked God and providence that he was saved.
The blocks of stone had fallen in such a way
that they formed a roof over the head of the
victim. He was extricated with great care and
trouble not only alive, but absolutely unhurt. We
gladly gave the customary sheep, which was
slaughtered the same evening.
Miraculous powers of various sorts are ascribed
to particular saints. Barren Beduin women make
a pilgrimage to Sheikh Sidi Abd er-Rahman.
The aid of other Sheikhs, when amulets or burning
do not avail, is invoked in the diseases of
camels, others again restore things that have
been stolen or help in the vendetta. Sometimes
a son inherits the “saintship” of his father, and
the power which these persons exercise in their
lifetime on the calm, silent Beduins must not be
under-estimated. In connection with the particular
activities of the Sheikh Sidi Abd er-Rahman,
I may mention the remarkable custom
of the Beduin women who walk three times round
an antique statue in order to be cured of their
sufferings. I confirmed it over and over again
at Karm Abu Mina. But I was never so struck

by it as in the Cairo Museum. I observed there
some women, evidently fellahs, who made one
of them walk three times round one of the
Pharaoh mummies. It was doubtless due to the
same superstition.
Next to saints, dervishes and lunatics play a
special part, since they are regarded as the persons
standing nearest to the Deity: the dervish or
“penitent” because he renounces everything
earthly, the madman because his spirit is already
in Paradise with Allah. Examples of both were
reckoned among our most assiduous visitors, and
I need not say that they were well treated. We
saw very little of the famous dervish arts. The
brave, harmless folk did not understand the business
of the Uled Ilwâns and Uled Sajds, the
celebrated dervishes of the Nile valley of the Order
of the Rifaje, who stick iron nails in their eyes,
hurl stones at their chests and eat burning coals.
We witnessed only two interesting experiments
made by passing dervishes. One of our greatest
troubles was the presence of scorpions and snakes,
which endangered the lives of the Beduins working
under the ground barefoot, and often naked. The
scorpion that lived among the ruins of the city
of Menas was a small dark yellow variety. It
poisons children, who die from its sting unless
an antidote is given without delay. The Beduins

have such an antidote, which they prepare from
the powdered tip of a snake's tail. With adults
the symptoms of a scorpion's sting are sharp
pain, a red and swollen place which often spreads
to other parts of the body, then a feeling of cold,
and sleeplessness. But they usually recover in
two or three days.
Among the snakes the only real enemy was the
uraeus. Both the scorpions and this uraeus, which
may be seen in the royal badge of the Pharaohs,
find their tamers. We became aware of this when
we expressed a wish to preserve unblemished
specimens of snakes, chameleons, and such-like.
For as a rule the Beduins killed all such creatures
with the axe or pick. A dervish who had spent
some months in our workmen's colony brought
a perfect specimen of a uraeus in his turban, and
put it through the tricks known to every traveller
in the East. More taming was not to be thought
of, since he delivered the creature up at once.
But we received absolute security for his art when
one day a uraeus a yard long was disturbed.
Monsignor Kaufmann, whose survey led him to
the spot, summoned the dervish to tame the snake
The dervish took off his turban, caught the reptile
after a short pursuit (it tried to flee between the
ruined blocks of stone) and wrapped it in his
turban cloth. In the pause which immediately

followed he had his pipe fetched, placed the creature
on his outspread burnous, and mastered it in
the usual manner. The Moses rod was only useful
on the ground: I mean the creature lay stretched
out like a stick, and as lifeless, until he let it free.
Two circumstances connected with the happy
presentation of other snakes of the same species
are worthy of mention: once the snake still
possessed its poisonous teeth and its poison: it
had no opportunity of biting stuff or any object.
In addition it had never been tamed. To the
question how he had learnt his art, the dervish
said it had been hereditary in his family for ages
without learning. He could offer no plausible
explanation, and concluded with “All rests with
God.” The same dervish trained a scorpion to
follow the steps of a man moving in different
directions. He kept the creature in an empty
preserved-meat tin, and only let it work to the
accompaniment of his pipe. In that case the
training was done by means of a little stick. The
taming of scorpions is a much rarer art than
that of snakes. Significant of the powers ascribed
to the short-sighted creature is the tradition related
by Makrizi about the history of the Emir
Taktabai, Governor of Kus. In order to escape
the attentions of a broken-in scorpion, he sat down
in a spot surrounded with water. The animal

crawled up the wall of the room to the ceiling
and fell down. The Emir killed it, and had the
tamer executed.
It is to be noted that the Beduin of Libya
rarely observes the obligation of every Moslem
once in his life to make a pilgrimage to Mecca.
The cause lies in his attachment to the soil,
at least of his particular desert. No one, however,
is better suited to the fatigue of the pilgrimage,
no one would feel more at home in
it. To the Auladali Beduin, at any rate, a good
example is not lacking. For centuries he has
observed, or guided, the pilgrims of the West,
from Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli, whenever
they chose the already mentioned caravan
route through Marmarika and Mariut. Scarcely
2 per cent. of the Auladali could lay claim to
the title of a Hadschi and had a right to wear
the green turban. Those few had mostly taken
the comfortable opportunity of joining the Machmal
caravans. Every year, in token of their royal
dignity and as a manifestation of faith, the rulers
of Egypt send the Kiswe, a costly cover for the
Kaaba, under a strong military escort to Mecca.
The Kiswe is placed on a gold carrying-chair
(Machmal) on one of the camels, and so the whole
caravan is called “Machmal.”
The route taken is via Suez and Dschidda

through the Arabian Desert, the Beduins of
which are under the obligation, against a tribute
of about £400, not to attack the caravan. For
a year now an essential alteration has been
carried out in Egypt with the purpose of always
using as far as possible the new Mecca railway,
and so diminishing the dangers and also the
expense of the pilgrimage. Pilgrims who cannot
or will not afford the luxury of the new method
of transport will be at a disadvantage, and thus
the number of western Beduins from the Libyan
Desert and the more distant Sahara taking part
in the pilgrimages is little likely to be increased.
In contrast to the holding back of the Libyan
Beduins, the increase in the pilgrims from the
interior of Africa is striking. For centuries the
journey has been made in the most primitive
fashion through Wadai and Kordofan to Khartum.
Pilgrim caravans which formerly came from Bornu
and passed the capital Dikoa, now prefer to go
round the north of Lake Tschad in order to avoid
the German customs. The caravans from those
parts take on an average a year to do the journey.
They take with them a strange article of exchange
which guarantees their sustenance without
special loads of provisions for the most difficult
stages of the way, namely, boys and girls, who
are readily sold on the way as slaves, but pay

best if it is possible to take them as far as
Mecca. Dr. Karl Kumm, the German African
traveller, who explored the connections between
the Niger and the Nile in those directions, two
years ago met a caravan which was led by a
son of the Sultan of Timbuctoo, a man who had
studied in Fez and Kairuân. At Schari his
caravan consisted of 150 persons, with 500 head
of cattle, 50 donkeys, and 15 horses. When
Dr. Kumm met the Prince again later, farther
east at Keffi Genji, the men were decreased by
a third and not a single animal remained.
The increase of the pilgrim traffic from the
region of Lake Tschad is to be attributed to the
influence of the Senussi, that power of Central
Africa which for decades has embodied the great
African peril. The spiritual influence of this
Islamitish power is evident. The Senussi convert
the heathen negro to Islamism, and compete too
successfully with the Christian missions, since
as a means to this conversion they introduce just
the amount of civilization that the African can
endure, and so impress the negroes. Thus the
Senussi naturally gain in political importance.
There is every sign that within a measurable
space of time the Senussi will establish politically
their Central African kingdom, and in a form
which promises a longer duration than the bloody

rule of the Mahdi of Omdurman. The last
French reverse in Wadai, which entailed great
sacrifice in November, 1910, in the district of
Abescher, is to be placed wholly to the account
of the Senussi, and it is significantly sounded in
the proclamation made by the French when
after the reverse they recognized the danger:
the clearance of the land of Wadai is not desirable.
It is an unfertile district, which can never
be made into a colony useful for French interests.
Later French news of victory over the Sultan
of the Senussi refers to a vassal, not to the overlord
and the chief power of the Senussi.
What is this mysterious political and spiritual
power of the Senussi? How did it arise?
Numerous Beduin tribes of the Libyan Desert,
and more in the Sahara itself, even some in the
Arabian Desert, adhere to it, and it unfurls the
banner of Pan-Islamism in Central Africa itself.
The Senussi is a Mohammedan brotherhood of
strict observance, so named after its founder, Sidi
Mohammed ben Ali es-Senûsi, an Algerian, who
died in 1859. But its influence only dates from
the activities of his son, Sidi Mohammed el-Bedr.
He was born in 1844 and died May 30, 1902,
at Geru, and under the name of the Mahdi played
a part in the east of North Africa, and especially
in the desert. But for the Beduins the Mahdi

is not dead. Although Lord Cromer and others
proclaimed his death, he still lives. On a white
horse, surrounded by white gazelles and antelopes,
he wanders unseen through the desert, makes
long journeys, and then suddenly appears among
his adherents at fixed places, sometimes in two
places at once. In May, 1906, it was officially
announced that the Mahdi had returned from
a secret journey to the oasis of Kufra. The
seat of the master of the order of the “Jesuits
of Islam,” as the Senussi are called, was formerly
the mosque and school of the oasis of Dscharabub,
but it was removed in 1905 to the oasis of Kufra,
and since 1902—since the supposed death of the
Mahdi—it has been at Geru or Karu, situated
between Kufra and Abescher, the capital of
The return to the simple strict rule of Islam,
its demand for abstemiousness, the prohibition of
tobacco, coffee, dancing, and music, make its
conquests in the desert and the oases easy for the
apostle of the Senussi. The conduct of the order
is admirable and the method of procedure perfect.
In the Libyan Desert they began to send out
envoys and preachers from the then central seat
at Dscharabub. Then small convents, always
with a school and a mosque, were established in
the north-east coast region, especially in the

district of Dschebel Achdar, ancient Cyrenaïca,
and Marmarika. The oases and larger wadis
(Wadi Natrûn) followed, and as the Beduins in
the north-west and east were gained, so was the
negro world on the southern borders of the great
desert. A specially alluring rallying cry was the
call to freedom from the dominion of those who
had another faith. But this was to be accomplished
by modern means. It is quite against the
spirit of the Senussi (I was always told this in the
oases as well as in the convents of the coast region)
to take the life of the wise man, of the European
when he makes no hostile attack. As far as
possible the monks try to protect the traveller
from robbery, but solely for diplomatic reasons.
They wish to avoid every cause of friction with
the Powers, especially with Turkey, which, although
Mohammedan, is regarded as a hostile Power,
since it repeatedly tried to gain over the new
brotherhood, and with it, de facto, the hinterland
of Cyrenaïca.
If it may be said that the desert has a ruler,
a lord, then Sidi el-Mahdi, the living dead man of
Geru, must be designated as the lord of the African
desert, with whom individuals as well as the State
must reckon. His disciples are not reformers,
and have no quarrel with the rest of Islam.
They desire to animate Islam. Therefore, whether

a chance or a far-sighted purpose, it was a stroke
of genius on the part of the founder to erect
his three first convents in Mecca, Medina, and
Dschidda, and then to go to Cyrenaïca and
The circumstance that Sidi el-Mahdi still lives
forms an ever-present latent danger. The Senussi,
whose leader is now a relative of Sidi Achmed, the
founder, will find an opportunity one day, when the
stars appear favourable, to let the Mahdi reappear,
and what that means in conjunction with the larger
peril of Pan-Islamism may be seen in the assertion
of Sali ben Said Omer el-Khalidi, a cultivated
Senussi, made openly in 1907 in Egyptian newspapers:
“The sole qualified representative of Pan-Islamism
is the Sheikh Senussi.” That man was
driven out of Tangier and Tunis in 1906 as an
envoy of the Senussi, was expelled from Malta
and fled to Bengasi on Turkish ground, whence
he travelled through Dscharabub to Barca, and
through the Auladali district to the Nile valley.
I hear that he now occupies the position of a chief
delegate of the Central Committee of the Islamitish
Union, and will perhaps be more disagreeably
The Senussi work systematically, even among
the Beduins, for the rising generation. The monk
who can gain a talented boy provides free maintenance

in the Koran school of a convent, and
I have met Beduins who allowed their sons to
join a caravan to Dscharabub in order to spend
some years in the chief school of the Senussi in
that distant oasis, which is a fortnight's journey.
Educated Senussi are occasionally sent to the most
famous of all Mohammedan universities, the el-Ahzar
at Cairo, which is the oldest in the world,
for in 1907 it celebrated its millenary.
The hard rough conditions of life, the continual
struggle with nature, together with—except so far
as the Auladali are concerned—a corresponding
purity of race, place the son of the desert in all
that is connected with morality higher than other
Orientals. So that it will be his good fortune
if civilization with its modern ideas of morality
keeps away from him. If circumstances permit, he
marries at the age of seventeen or eighteen. The
bride is sometimes not more than fourteen or
fifteen, and as the women are not veiled, she is
not so strange to the bridegroom as in towns and
As a general rule monogamy is preferred.
Where polygamy is practised there are seldom more
than two wives—Islam allows four—and generally
the second wife is taken for material motives.
Perhaps she brought fine herds, tents, or other
possessions, or it was an advantage for the man

to be allied with the clan or family. An important
Arab Sheikh, who is a friend of mine, has two
wives, one in Mariut, the other on the borders of
the desert, where he holds the post of Ghaffir, or
guard, on the estate of a pasha. He told me he
had married in order to have a home in Mariut,
and to plant there in favourable circumstances,
or make good purchases of camels, and also to
keep his chief wife better in check. At need he
rode to the Gebel and appeared there suddenly
with his second establishment. “I never have
it better,” he said, “than when the two tents
stand side by side; jealousy makes each surpass
herself.” But it chanced that we saw the other
side of the shield at Karm Abu Mina. The second
wife, of whose existence we knew nothing, came
to one of our workmen from a great distance with
bag and baggage, and wanted to pitch her tent
by the side of that of her rival. The latter tried
to prevent it, and a regular duel between the
women ensued. As the wife who had come from
so far was left by her husband without support,
it seemed just to divide his wages, ten or twelve
shillings, between the two tents; therefore both
were compelled to suffer, and so they departed.
In many cases the young Beduin looks out for
his bride himself. Then he returns home and
tells of the “noble young horse” that dwells yonder

in the tents of a tribe, and that he desires to
possess. Or else the father goes about and in
his own interest seeks a good match for one
of his sons. There is seldom a refusal, and the
marriages are nearly always fairly happy. The
girls, of course, are not consulted. According to
Mohammed the wife is a subordinate being,
whom the man may at any time get rid of with
the words “I send you away,” a means of which
the husband rarely avails himself. She lives with
her children in the harem, the women's part of
the tent, cut off by a perpendicular curtain, and
takes no part in the counsels, or the meals, or
the conversation of the men, if relatives are not
concerned. Yet she easily understands how to
influence the men without their knowing it, to
exhort them, and compel them to her will. Such
a woman, especially if she is older and experienced,
takes the place of a real matriarch. Resolute and
proud, she pursues great aims, and we had proof
of this when, in the first year of the excavations,
such a Beduin woman, who possessed three tents
and a herd of forty camels, wished to dispute with
Monsignor Kaufmann his right to excavate in
the city of Menas. That was the ground and soil
of her race; there lay the tombs of her ancestors.
She carried it so far that Mamûr Markaz, the
chief official of Mariut, had to come with a troop

of police and make it clear to her that the desert
belonged to the Egyptian Government. The
negotiations were dramatic and excited. The
Mamûr and the excavators sat on chairs, the forty-year-old
Matrije on a mat between us, and near
her, as a helper, the same Sheikh Schuchân who
had first shown us hospitality in the city of Menas.
But the handsome bearded man was merely for
show: Matrije, adorned with her valuable silver
bracelets, necklaces, and beautiful blue-green
tattooings, conducted the proceedings. In our
hearts we thought the brave woman was right,
and were glad it was not our hearts but the
representative of the Government that had to
decide. Matrije and her adherents had to undertake
to pitch their tents at a suitable distance from
us, and to let their camels pasture in the early
Christian city only with express permission. We
separated in perfect amity, and when Halime, the
old lady's daughter, drove her camels to the Karm,
she brought every day a large wooden bowl of
precious fresh camel's milk as a welcome tribute.
And later Matrije married her former “counsel,”
our friend Schuchân.
The long duration of the excavations allowed
us to assist at a Beduin wedding, and in order
that all might take part in it we had to sacrifice
a whole working day. The event was announced

some weeks before. During the time of preparation
an improvisation was given in front of one of the
tents every evening, the rhythmical hand-clapping
continuing until late in the night. At length the
eve of the wedding arrived. As heavy tropical
rains had filled the cisterns, every one when they
had finished work performed their ablutions
thoroughly. Then they put on their best white
garments and cleaned their guns. The two
Effendi gave several pounds of powder, carefully
divided into the right portions, by way of backschish.
The next morning sunrise was saluted with the
firing of guns, and the men prayed in front of their
tents. In front of the bridegroom's tent big copper
pots were boiling, in which rice and machrûta,
a sort of polenta, were cooking, while other big
pots for meat stood in readiness. The bridegroom,
one of our workmen named Abd el-Schuard, sat
nicely dressed on his mat, feeling himself the
centre of everything, and received the congratulations
of stranger Beduins who were permitted to
come to-day. The man had come to us very
poor, and had now saved up £4 and a tent.
“What should I do with much money?” he said.
“I want to marry.” My cousin had taken him
to task weeks before, and made it clear to him
that if he was dismissed, or the excavations given
up, he would possess nothing, and would be left

in poverty with his wife. But it was of no avail;
he always replied: “I shall eat bread.”
The slaughtering of a sheep was the first great
ceremony. The men sat round our Sheikh Sadaui
in a wide circle, who in the name of Allah cut
the creature's throat, not quickly, but out of love
for the animal slowly, with several cuts. The
Auladali regard swift killing as the sign of a hard
heart, and the victim's head must never be quite
cut off. The animal must lose all blood. One
dips his hand in the blood, goes to the bridegroom's
tent, and smears the tent-peg with it. The fellahs
do the same, and press the bloody hand several
times on the wooden door of the courtyard.
After the meat is cut up (even the intestines
find approval) the caravan is prepared which is
to fetch the bride. The tents of her tribe were in
the desert, a journey of a couple of hours. All
available horses and camels were decorated. An
especially fine camel bore on its back a karmût
made out of tent-poles, over which hung rugs, like
a pretty miniature tent. There the bride would
take her place. Women relatives, on this occasion
entirely veiled, sat on the other camels, which
were draped with gay-coloured rugs. At short
intervals they uttered the chant of joy (sarlûl),
louder when the men fired their guns, only
ceasing when the bride entered the tent of her

future husband. Accompanied by Beduins on
horseback and on foot, the procession marched
to the desert to the tent of the bride's father.
Without any ceremony the bride in her fine attire
was taken to the karmût, and an elderly relative sat
beside her on the camel. The procession then
went through the neighbouring desert from tent
to tent to receive wedding gifts. At last, after an
absence of six hours, the caravan again approached
the city of Menas. The youths and boys who had
stayed behind clapped hands and danced in front
of the bridegroom's tent, and amid sarlûl and
shouts of joy the bride went seven times round
the tent. Then the camel knelt down, the girl
entered the tent with her relatives, and it was
closed. The young people outside continued to
sing and dance, and at the moment when Abd
el-Schuard came out of his wedding tent and
showed the crowd his bloody fingers the noise
increased, all the guns were let off, and the old
people shouted their good wishes, in which the
words “God is good” continually recurred. A
universal feast closed the proceedings. A devout
stillness and the loud breaking of bones proclaimed
the gratitude of the guests, and the following night
the Beduin dogs from ever so far round scented
that there was something for them to fetch from
Karm Abu Mina. Our own dogs, Siwi, Abiad,

and Amenotep were so generous, and well satisfied,
that they let their wild colleagues come undisturbed.
We also had a birth in the city of Menas. Umm
Sâd, who, as related in Chapter IX, saved my
cousin's life, soon after my return from the oasis
gave birth to a girl. She received the name of
Bumna, i.e., Father Menas. The mother went about
her hard work the same day. If it had been a boy,
shots of joy would have been fired. Oil plays a
great part at a birth, and the mother remains
standing, for she fears she would die if she lay
down. According to the assertions of the people
miscarriages are very few. The child is wrapped in
rugs, and the name, which is often hereditary in the
family, decided on immediately. Some who come
to congratulate bring a few pence as a present,
“milk money” for the child. For the first three
days salt and bread are placed beside the infant as
a protection against the devil and evil spirits. If
he cries too much a Heschâb is written for him.
I was much struck by the general custom among
the Auladali and also in the Nile valley of suckling
the children for two or three years. In contrast to
the fellahs, girls are not circumcised, and boys
not until the age of fourteen or fifteen. From his
sixth year the boy does not live exclusively in the
tents, but makes himself useful as herd-boy. Little

fellows in the desert know as well how to look
after the camels as the naked little fellah boys the
dangerous and fierce-looking Nile buffaloes.
We were always thankful that, in spite of all the
dangers connected with the excavation works, death
never came during our proceedings in the city of
St. Menas. We often heard in the neighbourhood
the terrible Beduin death-wail when one of their
loved ones died. They begin it before death has
actually occurred. It reaches its climax after death
and during burial, and is sounded for a week every
night in memory of the dead person. After death
the relatives wash the body and stop up all the
openings with camel's or sheep's wool, rags, or even
grass. The corpse is then wrapped in cloths, and
the wealthier Beduins sometimes possess a green
shroud, in which it is rolled up like a mummy.
The funeral follows the day of death, and if
possible the corpse is buried where its ancestors
lie, and that is often on a hill on the caravan route.
Sheikhs and prominent men are distinguished-by
a tomb on a height. Some Sheikhs' tombs were
found in the east of the temple of Menas, over the
choir end of the great basilica of the Emperor
Arcadius. We spared the spot, especially as near
relatives of the dead still lived. The corpse, borne
on an improvised bier, is accompanied by all the
tent companions and friends to the monotonous


sound of “La ilâha ill' Allah, we Mohammed er
rasûl' Allah.” Friends are the bearers, then come
the men, and lastly the women, who swing their
black transparent head-cloths towards the bier and
utter their wailing chant. The grave is not deep,
and the face of the dead must look towards the
east. The Auladali have the idea that only Moslems
are so buried, and that the corpses of Christians are
buried with the faces to the ground. The grave is
covered with earth and the low mound with the
heaviest stones possible, on account of the hyenas
and jackals. Ruins are particularly preferred as
burial-places on account of the stones. Sometimes
the Simi or tribal badge is scratched on one
of the stones. Inscriptions on Beduin tombs are
very rare. There was one on the tomb of a Beduin
slave from Fessan buried in the city of Menas.1
1 See p. 299.
After the burial, all who had come in contact with
the dead man perform ablutions, for they had
become unclean. Then the funeral feast takes
place, which consists of the usual rice, machrûta, and
mutton. At twilight the women form a semicircle
in front of the dead person's tent—if a man with two
wives, in front of the two tents—set up wailing, and
between whiles praise the virtues of the dead. On
the seventh evening the ceremonies are concluded
by another funeral banquet.


Among the customs and unwritten laws of the
desert, which are of the age of the Bible, the law of
hospitality and the law of the vendetta hold the chief
place. Hospitality from Beduin to Beduin, even to
an enemy, is compulsory. It includes the coming
night also, and the wanderer must often enough
put up with poverty. If any one passes by a tent
at dinner-time, a repeated “fátal, ja fátal!” (“Please
come!”) invites him to stay and dine. A refusal
would be an offence. The law of hospitality applies
also to the foreigner, to the European, but when
the person and his purpose are unknown, and the
haunts of civilization are not far off, it is combined
with a wholesome suspicion. The Beduin expects
corresponding little gifts from the European. The
Oriental phrases: “This tent is thy house”; “I am
thy slave”; “Take my wife and my daughters and
my sons,” are mere flowers of speech and politeness.
In the course of three years I saw all possible
regions and came in contact with the most various
tribes of north-west Egypt, and I never found the
great law of hospitality neglected. Poor Beduins
offered milk, bread, or water. Wealthy Beduins
made it a point of honour, directly after my arrival,
to choose out the finest sheep from the flock, to kill
it in my presence, and to say: “It is thine, Effendi.”
The law of blood for blood lives tenaciously
in the desert, although some alleviation of it is

accepted among the Auladali, since the payment
of a ransom for the debt of blood is permitted more
often than formerly. For instance, a Mariut
Beduin killed another in a dispute. The murderer
fled out of the country to Barca, just as the Barca
Beduin finds the safest protection against his
enemies on Egyptian soil. A council, the Mâd, is
held, to which the parties send their representatives.
Finally a large sum of money is agreed on as
ransom. It is often so large that the whole tribe
must contribute in order to produce the two hundred
Egyptian pounds and more.
During the excavations there were, however,
cases in which no money in the world could have
made the old right yield. Once during a wedding
improvisation at Hawarieh, the bridegroom was
shot when the salute of joy was given. The
murderer fled into the Nile valley, but fell into the
hands of the Egyptian police and was condemned
to eighteen years' imprisonment. He was taken to
the Sudan to undergo his punishment, since the
danger of the vendetta was known. But the
murdered man's brother procured satisfaction by
shooting the prisoner's brother. He was hanged.
It is worthy of note that the vendetta is also
powerful when it is a question of interference with
girls. On the other hand, I know two cases where
girls were murdered because they had transgressed.


We sometimes had a very difficult position with
the Beduins, and the suspicion aroused by the
frequent visits of officers of the mounted police
patrols, who came solely on account of our safety,
added to our troubles. Of course we learned
much that could not without the greatest danger
be used for the advantage of our own lives; we
sometimes employed fugitives and men whose
crimes, when they were later discovered, filled us
with as much horror as a duel in our own country.
And now and again there were complications.
One day a woman came crying and calling for help:
her husband was shot. On account of a love
affair the son had shot his own father, and the
son was one of our workmen. He had fled with
the corpse. The Mariut police were at once
informed and patrols searched everything in the
environs of Schakâne, the place where the murder
was committed, an hour from the excavation buildings,
in order to find the corpse, which the son had
hidden. As no Beduin would come forward as
witness, there was no testimony except the father's
corpse. The search was continued in an entirely
opposite direction, at Abu Machlûf, as I started the
hypothesis that the son might perhaps have thrown
the corpse into an ancient cistern which was in the
ridge of hills to the west of the city of Menas. In
fact, some broken metnan bushes gave a clue, and

the corpse was found at Abu Machlûf, but buried in
the sand. The young murderer had fled into the
Nile valley and so forfeited his life. Hopkinson
Pasha, the president of the police, remembered the
photograph of the group of our workpeople that he
had seen in one of his visits to the excavation
buildings, and asked if the fugitive was in it. He
was there—at least, his head and bust; it was
enlarged, and led to his capture at Gezireh. He
was eventually hanged.
Among the Auladali, as with all other Beduins of
the Libyan Desert, administration of justice is in
the hands of the Mâd, the Council of Elders. In
the family Mâd, as well as in the tribal Mâd, the
oldest and most worthy are considered to be the
most impartial. The men assemble in a tent, and
tea or coffee introduces the proceedings. Each
side in turn lays the matter before the president
of the Mâd. The adversaries of course come to
blows, abuse and threaten each other, and burst into
fearful oaths. Then one of the elders intervenes
with the magic words, “Pray to the Prophet,” and
the surging waves are stilled. “A thousand
times,” is the reply. This is repeated for hours,
even for a whole day. I have often assisted at
a Mâd, mostly by chance, when during a journey
in the desert I came to tents where I knew
the inhabitants. The Effendi, to whom much

wisdom was ascribed, must be the impartial judge,
a proceeding that only helped in the way of
patience and tea-drinking. Sometimes a calming
influence was produced by clearly setting forth the
matter in dispute and strictly proving that right
or wrong lay on this side or that. But very often
the question of a stupid person or of an unexpected
arrival would set the whole debate going again, and
then there was no end to it. Attempt was made to
prevent war between single clans and tribes by the
intervention of the Mâd, or if the Barûfa was
already proceeding, to settle the quarrel.
If a fight occurred near the city of Menas the
people were with difficulty restrained from taking a
side. We were obliged to let workmen go who
belonged to either of the clans involved. As the
Beduins knew that we ourselves would never take
sides, and so long as no obstacle was put in our way
we should not give the alarm to the Egyptian
authorities, in time the wounded sought help at the
Kasr Abu Mina. In periods of unrest we made
our workmen deliver up their weapons and
ammunition. The strict but just procedure of the
chief of the excavations was respected by all reasonable
persons: “The Effendi el-Kebir, the old Effendi,
is as just as the Koran,” they used to say in
When a Barûfa has once broken out a Mâd can

only have authority after there has been some
decisive victory, however temporary. The weapons
are not often very dangerous, since the men
seldom have much ammunition and use the old
muzzle-loading guns or long thin bayonets. Those
who have neither guns nor steel use the nabût or
the hebl. The nabût is a thick stick or cudgel of
the height of a man, the hebl a bludgeon fastened
to the arm by a sling. Pictures and inscriptions are
scratched on such weapons. The terrible war-cry
shows that the fight, which usually starts with stonethrowing,
has begun. In tribal feuds and family
quarrels it is generally the women who egg on the
men: women even sometimes themselves take up
weapons, and with warlike courage rush on the
enemy. The cries of these black furies in their
fluttering garments vastly add to the irritation of
the combatants on both sides.
I remember a scene that took place at Christmas,
which we celebrated shortly after beginning the
excavations in the desert, that shows how quickly
we won friends. We had had guests all day long,
and had invited Beduins from the near neighbourhood
besides our workpeople. Late in the evening
we determined to light up a Christmas-tree and to
make a big bonfire on one of the high Koms of the
city of Menas. Old chests, packing material, and
such-like were piled up high and saturated with oil.

It soon burned up, and looked gigantic against the
dark sky of the quiet desert. Hardly a quarter of
an hour had passed when armed men came pouring
in from all directions, even horsemen, all of them
persons who had been our guests. They thought
that the Kuschk, our first log-house, was in
flames, that a Barûfa had broken out, and came to
defend us with their arms. We were immensely
The police avail themselves very cleverly of the
institution of the Mâd in the coast region and
round about the new Khedivial desert railway; when
it is not a question of a heavy crime, they hand over
the person concerned to a Beduin Mâd. And on
the other hand Beduins who are established settlers,
and therefore under control, turn to the native police
in cases where the Mâd cannot come to a successful
decision. I remember a tragi-comical affair of the
kind. During a Barûfa, a seventy-year-old Beduin
had his nose bitten off. His adversary offered
compensation, but the old man refused it: he would
have nothing but his enemy's nose. He was offered
a large sum, to which the whole clan contributed;
but the Mâd sat for days without result. He
would have no money, only his enemy's nose. At
last it was decided to call in the aid of the police,
and after fresh and long negotiations the old man
agreed to take a compensation of £120. The

matter certainly gave a new reason for our accident
insurance, the value of a lost European nose.
Robberies of camels and smuggling of haschisch
often led to severe fighting when the thieves could
be verified or the capture of a smugglers' caravan
took place. The smugglers are mostly Greeks,
who carry the contraband in little sailing-boats from
Greece, land on the shores of Marmarika, and make
use of the Beduins as forwarding agents. They
choose dark nights for the transport into the Nile
valley, because then the mounted black soldiers of
the Egyptian coastguard cannot venture into the
desert. The haschisch, on the capture of which a
premium of many times its value is set, lies ready
in small waterproof packets, often sunk in the sea,
marked for those who know the shore by a red
wooden buoy or something similar. The conductors
of the smuggling enterprises through the
desert are Beduins; they mostly travel in couples,
and well armed. They go half a day in advance of
the smugglers' caravan in order to spy out the land.
The holes of the city of Menas were formerly their
best hiding-places, but during the excavation these
were destroyed. The haschisch caravans rarely
consisted of more than three camels, the drivers
being a few boys. The animals were laden with
tiny sacks, which the boys could at any moment
hide or throw away. They marched only at nights,

so that the smugglers ran little risk, and a golden
harvest would be won by all concerned in the
I may say here a few more words about slavery, a
subject I have incidentally touched elsewhere. The
slaves of the Auladali are nearly all freed persons
who prefer to remain with their masters, and are
treated as members of the family. It is in the hinterland,
and especially in the oases, that slaves are
still found. The slave trade is only openly carried
on in Northern Egypt, in the oasis of Dscharabub.
It is essentially the Turkish market which is provided
with slaves from Dscharabub, although officially
it is usual to deny this. The price of a girl or
boy between twelve and twenty years of age is from
£4 upwards. Wadai and Bagirmi are the original
lands of these human goods. The great caravan
routes from Tripoli to Fessan, Lake Tschad, etc.,
are—according to the assertion of Hans Vischer,
the English resident at Lake Tschad, who lately
crossed the hinterland of Tripoli, little frequented
since the days of the German African explorers,
Vogel and Nachtigal—no longer to be recognized
by the white bones of the slaves who were
unable to endure the long journey to the north.
The oasis of Kufra is a place connected with
the slave caravans. It is a prominent seat of
the Senussi monks, who keep there a complete

arsenal of modern weapons and ammunition in the
centre of the Sahara. Turkish ships touch at
night on the shores of Tripoli, usually once a
month, in order to take the finest slaves to their
place of destination.

[Back to top]



The “ostraka” of the city of Menas—The lessons of the
excavations at Karm Abu Mina—The outlook for Mariut
—A far-reaching attempt of the Khedive—Agriculture and
Beduin trade—Success on the borders of the delta—How
the Nile mud changes the desert into a paradise—Fellah
villages—The rôle of the Beduins in the borderland—The
awakening of the Egyptian peasants.

IN 1909 Rowland Snelling, the well-known Egyptian
journalist, set on foot the question of reclaiming
the Libyan Desert. He had visited
the city of Menas and the western desert, and
then accepted an invitation from the corporation
of Western Egypt to the “great oasis,” and published
the results of his journey in an article in
the Egyptian Gazette. He entitled it “Ostraka.”
The term means the inscribed tablets, generally
of clay, which are found in the mounds of ruins
in the Nile valley, and which with the papyri that
have been discovered provide us with a library
of works on the history of ancient Egyptian


civilization. The ostraka of which Rowland
Snelling treated were the inscribed tablets of the
city of Menas. We found a great many, and
those in question show by the depth of the layer
in which they were that they are fifth-century
documents. They were the oldest Christian
ostraka in the Greek language, and among other
things their contents throw light on the cultivation
of the vine in the domains of the sanctuary
of Menas. The labourers in the vineyard, the
owners, the crop, the divisions of the clergy of
the sanctuary, the wages, the invalids, and so
forth are recorded. The coco-nut palm is also
mentioned, a tree now almost unknown in Northern
Egypt. The wine-presses that we found might
be called the supplement to these orders, letters,
and receipts, of which only a small portion can
be deciphered; in the deepest layers of the cisterns
further evidence was found in the guise of the
wood of date-palms, remains of vine-poles as thick
as an arm which had slumbered for a thousand
years in the mud crust beside well-preserved
portions of a wooden plough, the make of which
corresponds exactly with that now used by the
Beduins. Ten, even twenty, yards of rubbish
had to be removed before we got to the hard
mud crust in which those relics lay hermetically
sealed to prove the former wealth and fertility of

the land that had since become desert. It was
the general opinion that the ancient cultivation
of Mareotis had only extended to the actual
coast region and had only had sporadic settlements
in the desert.
The results of the Kaufmann Menas Expedition
proved the contrary, and its leader was right to
draw attention to the lessons that these conclusive
instances might teach for the reclaiming of Mariut.
“The whole of the northern Auladali Desert could
to-day be restored to its ancient flourishing condition,”
writes Monsignor Kaufmann in his often-mentioned
“Guide” to the excavations, “and, indeed,
by employing the ancient foundations.” He refers
to the cisterns of the city of Menas, which “are
sufficient for the cultivation of productive fruit
gardens and arable land of a square mile in
extent”; to the irrigation canals that might be
continued far into the desert; to Karm Abu Mina
as “a central point for the irrigation system of
Mareotis,” and the corresponding ruins at Haschmel-Aisch,
Hamam, Haschm-el-äschel, Kasr el-Gettajeh,
Abu Machlûf, Schakâne, etc. “Their
ancient wells and reservoirs are only buried—in
many cases purposely buried—for it lies (and lay)
in the express interests of the Beduins to have
as few watering-places as possible within the
boundaries of civilization.”


We have seen how the Khedive, Abbas Hilmi II,
in beginning the construction of the North-Western
Egyptian Railway at his own expense, made a decisive
step towards reclaiming at least the coast
region of the western desert of the ancient provinces
of Mariut and Marmarika. The expectations
bound up with the railway for acquiring new
land capable of cultivation were, through lack of
water, not quite fulfilled. I refer here, of course,
to the settler, to the training of the natives in
agriculture, not to the royal master, for whom the
railway is a profitable means of transport and
source of income. Settlements and fine tracts of
cultivated land are to be found alongside the new
railway line, chiefly in the part of Mariut near
Alexandria. The Beduin markets of Hamam,
Bahig, and Amriah do an enormous trade.
Amriah and the environs of Kingi Mariut have
palm gardens and vineyards, and the cultivated
land of a German, Herr Winterstein, of Alexandria,
offers a model as the most important attempt
at new cultivation. Nut gardens, barley, palms,
and other trees all flourish there; Beduins who
live in their tents close by are the labourers, and
they claim part of the harvest as a reward.
An Egyptian land company attempted to found
a large agricultural colony in Hamam during the
excavations in Mariut, and settled Russian Jews

there. I often visited the colony, and register here
the opinion of the Beduins who accompanied me:
“The old Effendi (my cousin) wouldn't employ
these people a week at Bumna.” Bad work was
the quintessence, but in any case much might be
gained at Hamam and in the surrounding plain if
labourers less skilful but better accustomed to the
climate could be brought there, and if the water
conditions were improved. As long as fresh-water
canals are not laid down, cisterns and large tanks
have to be relied on for storing the annual rainwater.
Progress in that direction must be admitted,
but it is small. It is also questionable if the large
expense is justified unless the desert can be included.
It is, of course, not suited for the so-called
larger cultivation, for the soil is not right for cotton,
rice, or sugar-cane. But all that flourished there in
times of antiquity, palms, fruit-trees—in the city of
Menas there grew, among others, carob-trees and
almond-trees—vines, and barley. The Beduins sow
barley sporadically in the wadis of the rain zone.
As a good rain year can only be reckoned on every
four years, they seldom stand to gain much. But
a rain year produces eighty times the seed sown.
In order to get fodder for the camels and horses,
we made a trial and sowed scheïr in the plain, the
ancient garden land of the city of Menas, which
had been ploughed Beduin fashion with the light

camel plough. Although 1907 was not a good
year, we reaped eight times the seed sowed. The
barley, where it is best, is seldom more than 15 to
20 inches high in the desert. The Beduins reap
it with the hands, breaking off the stalk, and thrash
it in primitive fashion with a pole.
During the excavations, when the attention of the
Egyptians was turned more eagerly to the desert
in the north-west, agricultural experts under the
direction of MM. Simond Bey and Leopold Jullien
examined the land of Mariut, and declared that
without an extensive system of irrigation, in other
words, without the assistance of the Government,
only sporadic small farming was possible. This
meant that they had no idea of the skill of the
Beduin labourer; the costly European hand must
stand at the plough; they even considered the
fellah, remarkable to say, unsuited to small cultivation
in the north-west. Larger undertakings are
condemned to failure beforehand. The conclusion
of their report was: “On the whole the experts
advise against the business.” Whether any attempt
will be made to profit by the lessons of the Menas
expedition, which I have given above in Kaufmann's
words, seems doubtful.
The opening up of the country would, of course,
also reveal mineral resources. The stone-quarries
of Dschebel Baten have for a long while yielded

serviceable building material for Alexandria, and that
it possesses hidden treasure is proved by the stratum
of gypsum discovered near the city of Menas at
Gherbanieh. It was known in ancient times. An
Alexandrian building company has meanwhile begun
to work it: an easy matter, since gypsum of the
quality of Cyprus gypsum lies a very little below the
surface of the ground—indeed, shows itself above
in places—and with a thickness of three yards will
yield an annual output of more than a million tons
of raw material. If we consider that the island of
Cyprus had, so to speak, a monopoly of gypsum for
Egypt,1 the importance of the discovery is recognized,
and the increasing profit of the Khedivial
desert railway is clearly understood.
1 20,494 tons in 1908.
The Auladali Beduin only concerns himself with
agriculture for his own needs and those of his
animals. He seeks his gains in the buying and
selling of animals and in the increase of his herds.
What sums pass through his hands may be computed,
since a sheep which in Barca and Marmarika
is sold at eight shillings, outside the gates of
Alexandria and in the Beduin markets of Bahig
and Amriah, according to the season, fetches double
and treble (sixteen to twenty-four shillings), which
is the normal Egyptian price.
I knew a poor Beduin whose commercial genius




brought him a large fortune. He lay in wait on
the chief caravan route of Derb-el-Hagg for the
Barca caravans, not to attack them—a thing
scarcely to be feared in the region of Mariut,
especially near the coast—but to purchase tired-out
camels for a trifle. The caravans, of course,
would only part with such camels as could not
endure more than a few days' further journeying,
and the owner was glad to get two or three pounds
for them. My Beduin acquired these animals with
borrowed money, fed them for a month on barley
and chopped straw, and then let them run loose in
the hattje, feed there and get rested, and afterwards
sold them at every larger market for five
or six times the price he had given for them.
Systematic camel-rearing is very profitable, because
it needs scarcely any outlay. Many young Beduins
who possess at least one good camel at the time
of the cotton harvest wander into the delta and hire
out the animal, a proceeding that brings in about
three shillings a day for a few weeks. They return
home with a sum that maintains them for a long
while. The Beduins enter also into direct agricultural
relations with the fellahs.
There could be no greater contrast than that
which exists between the fellah, who for centuries
has been oppressed, who was bound to the soil,
whose lot was harder than that of a slave, and

whose life was worth less than that of a cow, and
the free son of the desert with his commanding eye
and unbounded belief in himself. The position of
the fellah has, however, improved since the English
came into the valley of the Nile, yet the contrast
still holds good, and is most striking on the western
borders of the delta of the Nile. As the Auladali
desert is there extremely flat, there is a greater
chance of rendering it once again capable of cultivation.
It was only a question of getting a drop of
the source of all blessing in Egypt, the Bacher en-Nil.
In the first century of our era Rufus of
Ephesus wrote that no river water was drinkable
without sterilization—he naturally said boiling—
except the water of the Nile. And contemporary
science confirms this. The Nile mud, which acts as
its own filter, when brought into the desert makes
it a Garden of Eden. The annual inundation of
the Nile, which is increased by the mountain
torrents of Abyssinia and the rain - spouts of
equatorial Africa, has long been utilized, inasmuch
as the surplus water is kept together by cofferdams
and only drained off methodically. The
enormous dams of Cairo, Assuan, Siut, and Kaljub
allow the precious drops of the sea of yellow mud
to be so distributed, that not only in the months in
which water is scarce, from March to July, the
lands of the delta are watered by numerous branch


canals, a thing impossible in ancient times through
the former low position of the Nile, but the smaller
canals can be carried right into the desert. Millions
of square miles of land are thus made capable of
cultivation, and are worked every year. Where
twenty years ago the Auladali Beduins lay in wait
for the traveller, white snowfields of cotton-trees
and palm-shaded villages are now to be seen. A
perfectly organized land speculation has set in.
One day the Hukûma appears on unenclosed
ground, hattje or desert; the authorities intervene
and make the owner's title safe. Such and such
a Beduin tribe can perhaps prove certain ancient
rights, and is then compensated with money. Until
then the land had no value. For a feddan, or
Egyptian acre, £3, £4, or £5 is paid, an enormous
sum for worthless land. A year later the drainage
of the ground is begun by making little trenches,
the network of which is drawn closer and closer.
The Bey or the company that bought the land has
only to wait for the connection with the neighbouring
canal to be made for the gold to flow in streams.
The company itself cultivates half of it; cotton,
rice, durrha are planted and attended to by fellahs,
who obtain cattle and implements and a fifth of the
harvest by way of wages. The rest is offered for
sale, at £15 to £40 and more an acre, according
to its quality and its propinquity to water. The

owner, supposing that he is no poor speculator, is a
millionaire pasha in ten years, but the fellahs toil
and moil as before for their Bey or their “compania,”
and the Beduins see with astonishment
what is lured forth out of the land.
The Beduins play a twofold part in the fellah
villages built of bricks of Nile mud. At the edge
of the desert they live in those villages in large
numbers and carry on agriculture themselves; ten
Arabs are easily equal to a village of fifty fellahs.
They live absolutely separate from each other, the
Beduins in tents, the fellahs in their dêrs. Even
in the absolute peasant villages the visitor sees at
least one Beduin tent, mostly so situated that the
only road to it can be surveyed from it. It is the
Ghaffir's or guard's tent, the local police, an office
filled by Beduins throughout the frontier district,
and even under the big farmers, the companies, or
the Government itself. Their pay consists, according
to circumstances, of a bare sum of one or two
pounds a month or of a share of the agriculture, the
profit on the harvest.
The circumstance that the whole of the western
part of the province of Behêret, which extends from
the Rosetta arm of the Nile to the Libyan Desert,
the chief town of which is the ancient Horus town,
Time en-Hor, the picturesque Damanhur, consists
of reclaimed desert land, sufficiently explains the

large number of Beduins found there, some of whom
are settlers and others only partly so. The insecurity
of Behêret is proverbial and a great anxiety
for the Government. The mixture of the two
elements, the Beduins and the fellahs, by no means
tends to diminish the insecurity. If the fellah
songs compare Mariut to hell, to which the unbeliever
is banished, the land of Behêret in contrast
is the land “Seidne Jussuf,” Paradise, but the
Paradise of the Arab, whose intelligence combined
with his political liberty gives him everywhere the
upper hand of the fellah. The Arab, notwithstanding
that he looks after the policing of the frontier,
is a source of anxiety to the fellah, and especially to
the Government, which loses greatly in prestige
through carrying on the business of recruiting.
The Beduin is exempt from military service and
from taxation, and he extends the exemption to the
children of mixed marriages. For a money bribe
responsible Government Sheikhs enter them in the
lists of the tribes. Wearisome inquiries have to be
made, and if the Government enlists the young men
by force they flee into the desert. The fellah, who
is not free, sees this with envy, but is powerless, for
he dares not give information, lest he should have
his Beduin competitors and the whole Kabyle
against him. So in the whole of the west of the
delta the Beduin is master of the situation. Only

rarely and under special precautions do the police
venture into the outlying fellah villages, which in
consequence of the thick mesh of canals are only
accessible by long roundabout ways, and for months
during the irrigation of the cotton plants rise like
green hamlets from an immense lagoon, and are
only connected by the canal dams. Both fellah and
Beduin regard the Government police as their
common enemy. Wherever possible serious disputes
are settled in the Mâd, but nothing prevents
the Auladali Beduins from practising their law of
vendetta in those districts.
Besides a common enemy both sides have a
common interest: the protection of their possessions,
the cotton, worth its weight in gold during the
protracted harvest weeks, and the punctual arrival
of the water. The success of the work of many
months depends on the latter; if the engineers or
their subordinates make a fault in any spot in the
delta, the desired fertilization of the soil by the mud
is interrupted and everything rendered uncertain.
Then either the “Mohantez” is bribed to open
the sluices for a night or Beduins and fellahs open
the supply together one dark night and defend it by
force of arms. Single villages fight veritable battles
for their water privileges. But thanks to the
English surveillance, conditions are improving, and
where the system leads to injustice and preferences,


it is only with the subordinate corruptible officials.
Those improvements, combined with the making of
new canals, will, quite apart from the maintenance
of the land already laid out, be the chief task for the
country for a very long time to come. It must not
be forgotten that our time, with all its civilization,
stands far behind that of the ancients. Who now
thinks of so gigantic a possibility as that of building
a canal from the Central Nile right across the desert
to the Red Sea, as the Pharaohs planned it, and
who remembers that the most important of the
boasted waterways, filled with “the tears which Isis
wept for her husband,” rest on ancient foundations
or were surpassed by similar constructions! I remember
the fresh-water canal 45 yards deep that
connected Bubastis with the eastern salt lakes,
and so fertilized the land of Goshen, to traverse
which, according to Herodotus, took a period of
four days. It was built in the fourteenth century
before Christ. I remember, too, the Joseph Canal,
the Bacher Jussuf, about 207 miles in length, which
runs north from Siut into the Libyan Desert and
opens up the wonderful “land of roses,” the oasis
of Fayûm. There oranges and olives, peaches and
figs, rice and sugar grow as they did thousands of
years ago, the same fruits which once grew in the
sandy oasis of the Auladali Desert.
We have seen how the progress of civilization, at

least in the western region of the Delta, does not
quite oust the Beduin. But unfortunately, on the
other hand, it leads only very slowly to improvement
in the position of the fellah. His statute labour is
the same, although the taxes are juster and the
share of the profits more secure. But the fellah is
not yet sufficiently awakened to understand how to
get wealth at the fountain-head. I have seen with
horror how the profits of the richest harvests have
been squandered, how the old grounded mistrust—
partly on religious considerations—of banks, of
securing the money that has been gained, is rather
increasing than diminishing. The Beduin buys
herds with his gold; the fellah buries it in a pot, and
it happens that he cannot find the place, that he
dies and no one knows where it is, that he is
watched and robbed. As before, he is dependent
on his employer or on the company, to whom house,
cattle and all belong, and who can dismiss him at
any moment. Therefore the people when they
help each other with money demand enormous
interest. A single guinea is doubled in a year.
They borrow durrha and other victuals, lend money
in the hope of good harvests, and so tie the rope
about their necks.

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Date: (unknown) (Electronic edition revised September 2007) . Author: Falls, J. C. Ewald, b. 1885 (Electronic edition revised LMS).
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons attribution license.