The little carriages that have brought us to the necropolis of Memphis, through the interminable forest of palm-trees, had their wheels fitted with large pattens for their journey over the sand.
Now, arrived at the foot of the fearsome region, we commence to climb a hill where all at once the trot of our horses ceases to be heard; the moving felting of the soil establishes a sudden silence around us, as indeed is always the case when we reach these sands. It seems as if it were a silence of respect which the desert itself imposes.
The valley of life sinks and fades behind us, until at last it disappears, hidden by a line of sandhills—the first wave, as one might say, of this waterless sea—and we are now mounted into the kingdom of the dead, swept at this moment by a withering and almost icy wind, which from below one would not have expected.
This desert of Memphis has not yet been profaned by hotels or motor roads, such as we have seen in the “little desert” of the Sphinx—whose three pyramids indeed we can discern at the extreme limit of the view, prolonging almost to infinity for our eyes this domain of mummies. There is nobody to be seen, nor any indication of the present day, amongst these mournful undulations of yellow or pale grey sand, in which we seem lost as in the swell of an ocean. The sky is cloudy—such as you can scarcely imagine the sky of Egypt. And in this immense nothingness of sand and stones, which stands out now more clearly against the clouds on the horizon, there is nothing anywhere save the silhouettes of those eternal triangles; the pyramids, gigantic things which rise here and there at hazard, some half in ruin, others almost intact and preserving still their sharp point. To-day they are the only landmarks of this necropolis, which is nearly six miles in length, and was formerly covered by temples of a magnificence and a vastness unimaginable to the minds of our day. Except for one which is quite near us (the fantastic