Thursday, 15 July 2010

The Pyramids and Baron de Kusel (Bey): stupendous and full of mystery

More from 'An Englishman's Recollections of Egypt 1863 to 1887' by Baron de Kusel (Bey) and published in London, 1915 by The Bodley Head. Here he visits the Pyramids in 1864-65.

"There was no road to the Pyramids, only a narrow track, and along this our donkeys trotted at a very slow rate, except when prodded with a long stick by an Arab boy who ran behind each one of us, then their pace would increase slightly; but when the boys gave a certain yell they fairly galloped, and I am afraid all of us had two or three spills.

"We reached the Pyramids at last, and I for one was awestricken; they were so stupendous and full of mystery, and I realized then, that no account could ever make people understand the wonder of them. The Great Pyramid is 453 feet high; it cubes 2,600,000 yards, and it covers and area of more than eleven English acres. My friends stood and gazed and gazed without saying a word, for quite a considerable time., and then having arranged with the Sheikh, we proceeded to climb, or rather to be hauled up the enormous masses of stone; each one of us had two Arabs to assist him,, the two with me, magnificent men, with enormous muscular development, were named, I remember, Osman and Mohammed.

"They each gripped one of my arms, and practically swung me up tier after tier, until I was quite breathless, and had to cry a halt; a short rest, and then on again, until we reached the summit where we all stood, drinking in the beautiful exhilarating air, and gazing with rapt admiration at the scenery around us.

"Down at our feet our donkeys and boys looked like ants, and the path over which we had ridden like a thread of cotton, and further along the sweeping line of the Nile, and still further the city we had left that morning; on the other side lay the desert, vast and terrible - at least to me. Then, having gazed our fill, we started to descend, and that was almost worse than the ascent, for I grew giddy, and had it not been for my two Arabs I feel quite sure I would have fallen.

"We also explored the interior, which entailed much creeping and crawling, with one Arab in front to pull and the other behind to push, and at length we arrived in a chamber in which was a stone coffer, supposed to be the Sarcophagus of King Cheops; this chamber was about eighteen feet by twenty feet high. It was terribly hot, and the air was stifling; and when once more we reached the open air, I was was drenched with perspiration from head to foot, and the strain on my muscles had been so great that they found it necessary to lift me on to my donkey, and that intelligent animal, knowing no doubt that it was returning home, did not need any prodding.

"I had nearly forgotten to mention the Sphinx, which we naturally examined with attention; but I do not think that any of us felt the extreme awe that many people are supposed to feel at sight of this marvellous work, with its lion's body and man's head. "

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