Page images


816. Situation and Extent. Africa, whose name signifies the absence of cold," is situated between the 35th degree south and the 37th north latitude, and between the 18th degree west and the 51st east longitude. Its utmost length, from the Cape of Good Hope to the Mediterranean, is about 5000 miles, and its utmost bredth about 4800. It is bounded by the Mediterranean on the north, by the Arabian Gulf on the north east, and on the other sides by the Ocean, which on the east is called the Indian Ocean, and on the west the Atlantic, but in reality is the same ocean.

817. Population and History. The inhabitants of Af. rica are computed at about 30 millions. They appear to be divided into two classes, the blacks of the interior and southern parts, and the swarthy descendants of the Arabs and Carthaginians, who inhabit the country along the Mediterranean and the Nile. It is evident from history, and from the language of the Copts, or old natives of Egypt, that the Egyptians were the immediate descendants of the same ancestors as the Chaldeans, Assyrians and Arabs. The Romans established colonies on the northern border of Africa, but their settlements neveraffected essentially the color, character, or language ofthe people. The Vandals of Spain established a kingdom in Africa in 429, which lasted till 535. The Mahometan Arabs afterwards conquered and established their religion in the northern provinces, and their descendants constitute a considerable part of the present population.

818. Mountains. In the northern part of Africa are the mountains of Atlas, one part of which, near the Strait of Gibraltar, was anciently denominated a pillar of Hercules. From these mountains the adjacent ocean received its name, Atlantic. A chain of mountains runs east and west in about the tenth degree of north latitude, which terminate in Abyssinia, and are called Mountains

** Privative, and frigue, cold—a name imposed by the Ro

of the Moon. On the west of the Arabian Gulf is a ridge of mountains of granit, the material of the famous obelisks of Egypt. On the north of the European colony of the Cape of Good Hope, is a chain of mountains which contain the sources of several rivers. 819. Rivers. The principal river which has been explored is the Nile, which rises in the mountains of the Moon, in the 8th degree of north latitude, where it is called White River. Proceeding easterly, it is joined by the Blue River, which Mr. Bruce mistook for the main river, and being joined by other streams, it runs northerly to the Mediterranean, after a course of about 2000 miles. The Niger, (Neger, a Latin word signifying black, and an appellation given to the people as well as to the river) runs east about a thousand miles, and is lost in the sands ; which is said also to be the case with the Gir, another river of the interior. The Senegal is a large river, which enters the Atlantic from the east, southward of which is the Gambia. 820. Deserts. Africa is remarkable for vast deserts, which are incapable of cultivation. The Zaara alone extends nearly 3000 miles in length by 1000 in bredth, from the Atlantic to the confines of Egypt. There are other deserts in the south, but the interior of Africa is little known, being inhabited by savages and ferocious wild beasts. It is known, however, that a great part of Africa is covered with almost impenetrable forests. It is to be remarked, that in Africa no inland seas exist to invite commerce and civilization, nor will the rivers. bear large ships to the interior country. This country, therefore, seems abandoned to the savage and wild beast.

ABYSSINIA. 821. Situation and Extent. Abyssinia lies south of Nubia, and west of the Arabian Gulf, or Red Sea, but its precise limits are not known. It is about 6 or 700 miles square. This country was originally peopled from Arabia, as is manifest from the language of the inhabitants. It is a mountainous region, and contains a great number of rivers, which all pour their waters into the majestic Nile.

822. Cities and Inhabitants. The chief city is Gondar, which is said to contain 50,000 souls. Here is the palace of the negus, or prince, which is flanked by square towers. The Abyssinians are of a dark olive color— Their dress is a light robe, bound with a sash, and the head covered with a turban. Their houses are conical, built of clay, and covered with thatch. The Abyssinians were converted to Christianity in the 4th century, but their religion has had little effect on their morals or manners, nor are its ministers respected. They continue in a savage state. The king is the sole proprietor of all the land, his subjects possessing only moveable property.


823. Situation and Extent. The present limits of this celebrated country are not well defined, but it extends from the Mediterranean south to Nubia, and from the Red Sea to the deserts on the west. Its length may be about 500 miles ; but its bredth is narrow, being mostly a vale on both sides of the Nile.

824. Face of the Country and Climate. Lower Egypt is mostly a level country, along the banks of the Nile. This noble river, swelled by the tropical rains from May to September, overflows its banks in Lower Egypt, watering and fertilizing the ground. Before it reaches the sea, it divides into two main channels, forming a triangle of land called the Delta, from its resembling the Greek letter thus called. From these channels, and from other smaller ones, canals are made to conduct the water over the flat grounds. During the inundation, from June to October, this flat land presents a sea, surrounding towns and villages, and other improvements. The climate is hot in summer, but in winter temperate. Grain is sown in November, after the flood has subsided, and harvestis in April.

825. Lakes. . . In the northern part of Egypt are seve*akes, the chief of which are Menzala, Berelos and ** which are formed by the Nile, the water remaining

stagnant after the inundation. Mareotis, on the south of Alexandria, is sometimes almost dry. The Meris, a large lake or reservoir of water, was formed anciently by art ; it is supposed to be the long deep canal called Bathen. The lakes or basons which afford natron, are in a desert, near a remarkable channel, which is supposed to have been a branch of the Nile. From the stagnant waters in Egypt, originate innumerable musketoes and gnats, which torment the inhabitants. 826. Mountains and Productions. Between the Nile and the Arabian Gulf is a range of mountains, and on the west are mountains of sand-stone, or free-stone, which furnished the materials of the pyramids. In Upper Egypt are mountains of granit and porphyry, with quarries of marble. The productions of Egypt, in addition to such as are common in similar latitudes, are the lotus, a species of water lily, which, on the recess of the inundation, covers the canals with its broad leaves and beautiful flowers. The papyrus, the plant which furnished the material on which the ancients wrote, and the present name of flasher, once grew upon the banks of the Nile, but it is said to be exterminated. In Egypt flourish the sycamore, the date palm, the pistachia, the oriental plane, the caper bush, senna, and the henna, from which is prepared a yellow dye, with which the ladies tinge the nails of their fingers. To these may be added the tropical fruits, the sugar cane, and cotton. 827. Inhabitants. The population of Egypt is computed at two millions and a half. The inhabitants sprung from the same stock as the Arabians, Phenicians, Assyrians and Jews, which is proved not only by the color and features of their bodies, but by the ancient Coptic language. Egypt fell successively under the dominion of the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Mahometans, Saracens, and Turks. The Copts, or descendants of the original inhabitants, are yet numerous, but the Arabs and Turks form a considerable part of the population, and the

Coptic language being extinct, the Arabic is universally used,

828. Persons, Manners and Customs. The lower classes of people in Egypt are said to be ugly, and filthy in their persons and houses, but mild and hospitable. The Coptic inhabitants in higher life have tolerable features, and the females, tho of short stature, have large black eyes and elegant shapes. The Arabs have the same persons, and differ not essentially in character from those in Arabia. Inflamed eyes are very common in Egypt, which may perhaps be ascribed to the dust of the country. The people live chiefly on rice, or other vegetable diet, and milk. They drink little fermented liquor, ride much on horseback, and bathe frequently for the preservation of health. The practice of hatching eggs by artificial heat in ovens is common in Egypt, and great attention is paid to the raising of bees. 829. Chief Cities. Cairo. Cairo, or Cahira, is on the east side of the Nile, at some distance, but connected with the river by its suburbs. On the east is a chain of mountains, on the north a plain. From the river to the city is a wide canal, which, when the water is low, becomes very offensive. The streets are narrow, that they may be shaded by the houses, it being deemed, in the hot climates of the east, of more consequence to health to keep the air cool, than to have fresher air with greater heat. The principal mosk is ornamented with marble pillars and Persian carpets, and has a library of manuscripts. The city contains 300,000 inhabitants, with reservoirs of water, public baths, and bazars, in which each trade has its quarter. The houses are mostly of sand-stone, two or three stories high, with flat roofs, and at the north east are gardens and villas of the grandees. During the inundation, parties amuse themselves in light boats, like the Venetian gondolas. The common amusements are games of chess and drafts, dancing girls and rope dancers. 830. Alexandria, Alexandria, now called Scanderia, was built by Alexander the Great, soon after he destroyed Tyre, about 333 years before Christ. It stands on the Mediterranean, 12 miles west of the canopic mouth of the Nile. This city was for ages a place of great magnificence and commerce; after being taken and

« PreviousContinue »