42o PICTURESQUE PALESTLNE.
clamorous crowd,—the donkeys, the camels, the street-criers, the chatter, the dust, the flies, the
fleas, and the dogs, all put us in mind of the poorer quarters of Cairo. In the market, it is
even worse. Here are hundreds of country folk sitting on the ground behind their baskets of
fruit and vegetables. Some have eggs, butter, and buffalo-cream for sale, while others sell
sugar-canes, limes, cabbages, tobacco, barley, dried lentils, split beans, maize, wheat, and durah.
The women go to and fro with bouquets of live poultry. The chickens scream ; the sellers
rave ; the buyers bargain at the top of their voices ; the dust flies in clouds, the sun pours
down floods of light and heat; you can scarcely hear yourself speak; and the crowd is as dense
as that other crowd which at this very moment, on this very Christmas Eve, is circulating
among the alleys of Leadenhall Market."
Asyut (or Siout) is a much larger place, and gloriously situated. The approach along the
zigzags of the river is singularly beautiful, as the town appears first on one side and then on
the other, with the glowing Libyan hills behind it and delicious riverside pictures in the
foreground. Asyut is the capital of Upper Egypt, and musters a population of twenty-five
thousand, according to Egyptian reckoning ; and its superior rank and prosperity are testified
by the comparative solidity and regularity of its mud huts, and the several well-built houses
and mosques which it contains : after all, a large town in Egypt is only a magnified village.
It is famous for its manufactures of pottery and pipe bowls, and caravans arrive here with the
produce of the equatorial provinces. But the finest thing about Asyut is its situation. Half-
girdlecl by a spur of the Libyan hills behind, it looks down upon the broad windings of the
river, while around it stretches the rich green plain watered by the wide canal which irrigates
the valley as far as the Fayyum, with high embankments planted with trees. No site is
more picturesque in all Egypt.
A high embanked road leads to Asyut from El-Hamra, its little port on the Nile, and
another leads from Asyut to the tombs in the Libyan mountains (see page 418). Tier above
tier in the lofty stratified cliffs yawn the tombs, while shreds and bones of mummies bleach
in the sun on the slopes below. Interesting as many of these tombs are, the view from the
mountain in which they are cut is even more fascinating. " Seen from the great doorway of
the second grotto it looks like a framed picture. For the foreground, we have the dazzling
slope of limestone debris ; in the middle distance, a wide plain clothed with the delicious
tender green of very young corn ; farther away yet, the cupolas and minarets of Siout rising
from the midst of a belt of palm-groves ; beyond these again, the molten gold of the great river
glittering away, coil after coil, into the far distance ; and all along the horizon, the everlasting
boundary of the desert. Large pools of placid water left by the last inundation lie here and
there, lakes amid the green. A group of brown men are wading yonder with their nets. A
funeral comes along the embanked road—the bier carried at a rapid pace on men's shoulders,
and covered with a red shawl; the women taking up handfuls of dust and scattering it upon
their heads as they walk. We can see the dust flying, and hear the shrill wail of the mourners
borne upon the breathless air. The cemetery towards which they are going lies round to the