And this morning, at the rising of the sun, is pure and splendid as all other mornings. A tint of rosy coral comes gradually to life on the summit of the Libyan mountains, standing out from the gridelin shadows which, in the heavens, were the rearguard of the night.
But my eyes, grown accustomed during the last few weeks to this glorious spectacle of the dawn, turn themselves, as if by force of some attraction, towards a strange and quite unusual thing, which, less than a mile away along the river, on the Arabian bank, rises upright in the midst of the mournful plains. At first it looks like a mass of towering rocks, which in this hour of twilight magic have taken on a pale violet colour, and seem almost transparent. And the sun, scarcely emerged from the desert, lights them in a curious gradation, and orders their contours with a fringe of fresh rose-colour. And they are not rocks, in fact, for as we look more closely, they show us lines symmetrical and straight. Not rocks, but architectural masses, tremendous and superhuman, placed there in attitudes of quasi-eternal stability. And out of them rise the points of two obelisks, sharp as the blade of a lance. And then, at once, I understand—Thebes!
Thebes! Last evening it was hidden in the shadow and I did not know it was so near. But Thebes assuredly it is, for nothing else in the world could produce such an apparition. And I salute with a kind of shudder of respect this unique and sovereign ruin, which had haunted me for many years, but which until now life had not left me time to visit.
And now for Luxor, which in the epoch of the Pharaohs was a suburb of the royal town, and is still its port. It is there, it seems, where we must stop our dahabiya in order to proceed to the fabulous palace which the rising sun has just disclosed to us.
And while my equipage of bronze—intoning that song, as old as Egypt and everlastingly the same, which seems to help the men in their arduous work—is busy unfastening the chain which binds us to the bank, I continue to watch the distant apparition. It emerges gradually from the light morning mists which, perhaps, made it seem even larger than it is. The clear light of the ascending sun shows it now in detail; and reveals it as all battered, broken and ruinous in the midst of a silent plain, on the yellow carpet of the desert. And how this sun, rising in its clear splendour, seems to crush it with its youth and stupendous duration. This same sun had attained to its present round form, had acquired the clear precision of its disc, and begun its daily promenade over the country of the sands, countless centuries of centuries, before it saw, as it might be yesterday, this town of Thebes arise; an attempt at magnificence which seemed to promise for the human pygmies a sufficiently interesting future, but which, in the event, we have not been able even to equal. And it proved, too, a thing quite puny and derisory, since here it is laid low, after having subsisted barely four negligible thousands of years.