+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

from Suez to the eastern extremity of Lake
Menzaleh: the line of transit conceded by
Mehemet Ali is from Alexandria by Cairo to Suez,
nearly three times as long. The former line
passes across a low and well-watered region:
the latter renders necessary an interchange
of canal and river navigation, and dry land
passage across the desert. The former might
be passed in a day without halting: the latter
occupies several days, and includes necessary
stoppages in the inns of Alexandria and
Cairo. But Mehemet Ali and his tools
directed attention from the former, and gabbled
about railways and other impracticabilities,
and the European public was gulled. Egypt
can be reached any day by a fortnight's easy
and luxurious travel, and yet the country
between the eastern extremity of Lake
Menzaleh and Suez is less accurately known than
the Isthmus of Panama.

What we do know, with any degree of
certainty about this transit, is briefly as follows:
The navigation of the Red Sea in the
vicinity of Suez is rather intricate, abounding
in shoals, but there is secure anchorage, and
sufficient draft of water for merchant ships
of considerable burden. The Mediterranean
off the eastern extremity of Lake Menzaleh
is rather shallow, tolerably sheltered from the
west wind, which prevails for a part of the
year, but exposed to the north wind. Between
Suez and the site of the ruins of Pelusium at
the eastern end of the lake, the land is low
and level, apparently for a part of the way
between the level of both seas. The low land
receives in the wet season the drainings of the
high land on the east, which is a northern
continuation of the mountains between the
gulfs of Suez and Akaba. In addition to
this, the land to the westward (northward
of the Mokattam mountains which terminate
near Cairo) has a twofold slope,—the principal
northward to the Mediterranean, the
secondary eastward to the line of country we
are now describing. Originally, there appears
to have been a branch of the Nile entering
the Mediterranean near where the ruins of
Pelusium now are, and those intermediate
branches between that and the Damietta

The first mentioned is now closed, the other
two very much obstructed; but their waters
still find a way to the coast, though diminished
by artificial works, and appear to be the cause
of the collection of shallow water called Lake
Menzaleh. Here, then, we have sixty
geographical miles of a low country, with no
considerable undulations, towards which the
waters of Arabia Petræa flow in their season,
and towards which a considerable portion of the
waters of the Nile would flow if left to fall on
the natural declivity of the country. There is
an abundant supply of water for a ship canal.
The surface of the ground is in some places
covered with drift sand, but not uniformly
nor even for the most part. The subsoil is
hard, clayey or pebbley. The bent-grasses
might be cultivated, as they have been in
Holland, to give firmness to the drift sand
where it occurs; and this superficial obstacle
removed, the subsoil is favourable to the
construction of a permanent water-channel. The
great difficulty would be the construction of
works by which access to the canal is to be
obtained from the Mediterranean. Apparently
they would require to be carried far out into
the sea; and apparently it would be difficult
to prevent their being sanded up by the waves
which the north winds drive upon the coast
for a great part of the year.

These difficulties, though great, are not
insuperable. The advanced state of marine
architecture and engineering ought surely to
be able to cope with them. By re-opening the
Pelusiac branch of the Nile, and throwing
into it the waters which would naturally find
their way into the Tanitic and Mendesian
branches, a sufficient stream of water might
be thrown into the Mediterranean at Pelusium
to keep a passage open by its scour.
We must speak with diffidence about a locality
which has yet been so imperfectly surveyed;
but so far as the present state of our knowledge
respecting it enables us to judge, there
are no serious impediments to the construction
of a ship canal from Pelusium to Suez, which
would be perfectly accessible and practicable
for vessels of from 300 to 350 tons burden;
and there is a growing impression among
merchants and skippers that this class of
vessels is the best for trading purposes.

But the great difficulty remains yet to be
noticed; the condition of government and
civil security in that country. The isthmus
is close on the borders of civilised Europe,
and ample supplies of effective labourers could
be procured from Malta, and the Syrian and
African coasts. But so long as the country is
subject to a Turkish dynasty, could the
undertakers count upon fair play and sufficient
protection from the local authorities? And are
the jealous powers of Europe likely to combine
in good faith to afford them a guarantee
that they should be enabled to prosecute
their enterprise in security?

                      CURIOUS EPITAPH.
  The following curious Inscription appears in the
Churchyard, Pewsey, Wiltshire:—
                     HERE LIES THE BODY
                      LADY O'LOONEY,
               GREAT NIECE OF BURKE,
                             SHE WAS
                   ALSO, SHE PAINTED
                   IN WATER-COLOURS,
                    TO THE EXHIBITION.
               SHE WAS FIRST COUSIN
                    TO LADY JONES;
                      AND OF SUCH