The early Egyptologists

And he spat in the sand and continued on his way.
The mountains of Abu Fedah consist of a low range about twelve miles long and from two to three hundred feet in height. These hills are wedge-shaped, and from a narrow, uneven ridge at the summit the sides slope downward at a sharp angle on either side, affording little apparent foothold to one who might essay to climb the steeps. At the south end are pits wherein were found numbers of mummified crocodiles, proving that these reptiles were formerly worshipped by the natives of Al-Kusiyeh, which is the ancient city of Qes of the hieroglyphic texts, and was afterward called Cusae by the Greeks. It was, in its prime, the capital of the fourteenth nome or province of Upper Egypt, and a favorite winter abode of the kings of the Middle Empire. The modern village, as before explained, lies a mile or two from the Nile bank, in a fertile valley watered by bubbling springs. The inhabitants are mostly Arabs, or a mixture of the Arab blood with that of the native fellaheen, which last, in common with the Copts, are direct descendants of the ancient Egyptians.

The early Egyptologists expected to find important tombs secreted in the limestone cliffs of Gebel Abu Fedah; but careful search only revealed the mummy crocodile pits and a few scattering and uninteresting{31} cavities roughly hewn in the rocks, which might have contained mummies at one time, but had been rifled of their contents ages ago. The few inscriptions remaining in these rock tombs indicated that they were the burial places of ordinary citizens of Qes, and such cavities as were observed all faced the Nile. The opposite slopes of the mountains, facing the east, seemed never to have been utilized for tombs, fond as the Egyptians were of such opportunities to inter their dead in rocky places, above the reach of jackals or marauders.

Kāra skirted the south end of the mountain and passed around the edge of a bleak gray cliff. Here, close against the overhanging sandstone, was clustered a nest of wretched hovels, built partially of loose fragments of rock and partly of Nile mud baked in the sun. The place was called Fedah by the natives, and its scant dozen of inhabitants were those of pure Egyptian lineage, who refused to mingle with the natives of Al-Kusiyeh.

The most substantial of the dwellings was that occupied by Hatatcha and her grandson. It had been built against a hollow or cave of the mountain, so that the cane roof projected only a few feet beyond the cliff. A rude attempt on the part of the builders to make the front wall symmetrical was indicated by the fact that the stones bore quarry marks, and at the entrance arch, which had never been supplied with a door, but was half concealed by a woven mat, the stones were fully four feet in thickness.

The other huts, ranged beside and before this one,{32} were far less imposing in construction; but all had the appearance of great antiquity, and those at the north and south edges of the huddle were unoccupied and more or less ruined and neglected. Tradition said that Fedah, in spite of its modern Arabic name, was as old as ancient Qes, and there was no reason to doubt the statement. Its location was admirable in summer, for the mountain shaded it during the long hot afternoons; but around it was nothing but sand and rock, and the desert stretched in front as far as the borders of Al-Kusiyeh.


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