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of soil tillage is done by hand. Something like a double fixed labor charge rests upon the land through the necessity for irrigation.
A MASSIVE MONUMENT TO VEGE-
The Egyptian peasant lives very much after the manner of the old-fashioned Southern Negro of our cotton plantations. Two staple foods among the latter are corn and sweet potatoes. This is precisely true in the case of the Egyptian peasant, who can grow his corn the year around. The Egyptian sweet potato is a gross, insipid thing and, in the language of the tobacco trade, is good for filler rather than flavor.
The modern Egyptian farmer displays a tireless capacity for muscular effort, but he hardly knows the taste of meat. He stands, in the matter of diet and agricultural technique, just about where his ancestors were in the days of the Pharaohs.
King Cheops is said to have expended 1,600 talents of silver (about $1,700,000) on radishes, onions, and garlic roots for the 100,000 men who labored for three months every summer for 30 years constructing the Great Pyramid, which, like other similar Egyptian stone piles, is veritably the work of men's hands.
This product of human brawn and muscle, reared some 58 centuries ago, required about 2,300,000 separate blocks of stone averaging around 21⁄2 tons each in weight. The stones, therefore, in the Great Pyramid would load 115,000 American steel gondola cars of 100,000 pounds' capacity. In other words, the train make-up of the material in the Great Pyramid would require a solid freight train extending from Philadelphia to Chicago (see page 270).
These heavy stones were quarried, transported across the Nile Valley, heaved up into place on the edge of the plateau marking the beginning of the Libyan Desert, and laid so true in the structure that the blade of a knife does not find its way into the crevices between the blocks. If this astonishing product of muscular effort was achieved by men whose diet was nothing more than radishes, onions, and garlic, the Great Pyramid is not only the most stupendous monument ever reared by man, but it is at once the most
impressive tribute to the merits of vegetarianism that the world has ever seen.
The meat-eaters, however, counter this argument by remarking that if the modern Egyptian wants to get anything done in the way of massive construction, such as the Aswan dam or the Nile Barrage, he must of necessity call on the meateaters of western Europe to come down and perform this service for him.
AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENTS HAVE NOT IMPROVED IN 4,600 YEARS
The Egyptian farmer is a conservative of the conservatives, both in the matter of his foods and in the methods he employs for cultivating the soil. Egypt, despite 6,000 years of civilization, has not risen from the primitive agricultural stage of society. The age of industrialism is yet to be. Agricultural progress lags unbelievably.
At Sakkara may be seen the excavated home of the wealthy farmer Ti, who flourished some 2,700 years before Christ. The home of Ti is embellished with mural decorations depicting his agricultural activities. One of these pictures represents Ti bossing the threshing of his grain. The job was done on a threshing floor precisely the way the operation is carried out to-day.
Another scene depicts the plowing of Ti's estates with bullock-drawn wooden implements. Here one marks a change in agricultural methods. Ti's plow has two handles; the operator, walking behind the implement, guides it true, much as a modern American steel plow is held to its course by the man who follows it in the furrow. The modern Egyptian plow is also of wood and is likewise drawn by bullocks or camels, but the implement is usually guided by a single wooden upright rather than by two handles, and the operator walks by the side of the plow rather than behind it.
It is obvious that in the 46 centuries that have elapsed since the days of Ti the primary agricultural operation of plowing has not only made no progress, but has actually suffered retrogression. If Ti could be restored to his estates to-day, after the lapse of 4.600 years, no one in Egypt could reproach him with being an old fogy; indeed, his two-handled plow
Molasses is a by-product of the sugar industry and is an important item on the menu of the Egyptian of moderate or small means. At Naga Hamadi, where these jars of molasses (known in Egypt as black honey) await shipment, another barrage is very shortly to be thrown across the Nile, similar to that at Esna (see map, page 272).
might be regarded as a rather impractical sort of contraption!
SCOUNDREL AND BENEFACTOR PRAISED
The Egyptian sticks to what has been accepted by his forefathers in the food he eats, in the way he cultivates his land, and, in the case of the townsman, even in the conventional compliments he dispenses.
Much depends upon etiquette and ceremony. Ceremonial observances the world over are the last to change in the altered conditions of a changing world. When passing the Mosque of Sultan Hassan, in Cairo, the writer dropped a small copper coin of the value of a cent in the open palm of a distinguished-looking citizen who sat by the wayside begging. The virtue of charity had its immediate reward in a neat little speech of thanks expressed in sonorous Arabic.
"What is that fellow saying?" we inquired of our guide.
"He says you are one fine gentlemans, and that every day of his life, as long as he lives, he will implore Allah to make you a great lord in your own country and a fruitful father of a multitude of children."
Pleased and touched, we stepped back and bestowed further largess to the amount of an additional cent.
"What does he say now?" it was demanded.
"He remarks that Your Excellency is the greatest doer of good works in all the world."
We later encountered in our progress a funeral procession issuing forth from a humble dwelling (see page 287).
"The man who has just died was one of the meanest scoundrels in town," our guide judicially remarked.
"But what are the hired mourners chanting?" we asked.
"Master, they are saying that the deceased was the greatest doer of good works in all the world."
A CAMEL CARGO OF DATE-PALM STALKS Among the multifarious gifts of the date palm to dwellers in Africa and the Near East is the raw material from which chairs, bedsteads, and baskets are made.
CANE IIARVEST TIME ON THE BANKS OF THE NILE
At this season the larger canals along the river present a busy scene. Fleets of the picturesque markabs, or Egyptian freight boats, transport the cane from field to factory. Egypt exports some 40,000 tons of sugar annually.
Photograph by Earle Harrison
This contrivance is merely a variation of the sakich (see page 288). It operates much on the same principle as a dredging machine, save that it raises water instead of mud.
"But that is exactly what was said of me."
"True, Your Excellency, but the words are the same for all persons."
A witty English playwright has well remarked that calling for sincerity in a ceremonial society is like demanding steel girders for a house of cards.
THE PINK BOLLWORM IS THE EGYPTIAN'S PLAGUE
Despite the fact that the Egyptian farmer has little to worry about in the way of soil or climate, I doubt if his lot is one whit easier than that of his ancestors, who sweated in the sun 5.000 years
ago lifting water from the River Nile.
Modern engineering has hitched up gravity to do the work of tens of thousands of waterlifters, but modern. Egyptian farming pivots around the cultivation of cotton, and making a cotton crop in the Nile Valley is no easy job. While the cotton plant must have abundant moisture, often the surface water conducted to the plant in irrigation ditches finds a subsurface level in the porous soil and rises until it has reached the roots of the plant.
Plants breathe through their roots as well as through their leaves and deep-rooted plants, such as cotton, will often sicken or even die from subsurface drowning. There are some field growths, such as rice, which can root-breathe under water, but they are the exception.
Another drawback to cotton growing is a miserable little maggot known as the pink bollworm. Nature has produced two worms, operating in their respective spheres, which industriously compete for the attention of the fabricator of silk and imitation silk stockings. The energetic silkworm works along constructive lines and turns out the real thing. The pink bollworm works along destructive lines, attacks the imitation thing, and thus confirms the silkworm in his age-long position of importance.
Modern science struggles ineffectually to rid the land of Egypt of this insect pest, just as the despotic king of the Biblical narrative fruitlessly strove to be quit of the insect plagues of the lice and the locusts.
For millenniums the Egyptian farmer has used the shaduf to raise water from the Nile to the level of his fields. At low water several of the contrivances must be used, the water being lifted from one basin to another, up a series of terraces, entirely by man-power. In the dry season a shaduf working continuously can supply the water necessary to irrigate about two acres of land. Modern irrigation methods have greatly decreased the number of shadufs in operation, with a consequent tremendous saving of labor.