Behold me then, for some two or three hours, alone among the temples of the Pharaohs. The tourists, whom the carriages and donkeys are at this moment taking back to the hotels of Luxor, will not return till very late, when the full moon will have risen and be shedding its clear light upon the ruins. My post, while I waited, was high up among the ruins on the margin of the sacred Lake of Osiris, the still and enclosed water of which is astonishing in that it has remained there for so many centuries. It still conceals, no doubt, numberless treasures confided to it in the days of slaughters and pillages, when the armies of the Persian and Nubian kings forced the thick, surrounding walls.
In a few minutes, thousands of stars appear at the bottom of this water, reflecting symmetrically the veritable ones which now scintillate everywhere in the heavens. A sudden cold spreads over the town-mummy, whose stones, still warm from their exposure to the sun, cool very rapidly in this nocturnal blue which envelops them as in a shroud. I am free to wander where I please without risk of meeting anyone, and I begin to descend by the steps made by the falling of the granite blocks, which have formed on all sides staircases as if for giants. On the overturned surfaces, my hands encounter the deep, clear-cut hollows of the hieroglyphs, and sometimes of those inevitable people, carved in profile, who raise their arms, all of them, and make signs to one another. On arriving at the bottom I am received by a row of statues with battered faces, seated on thrones, and without hindrance of any kind, and recognising everything in the blue transparency which takes the place of day, I come to the great avenue of the palaces of Amen.
We have nothing on earth in the least degree comparable to this avenue, which passive multitudes took nearly three thousand years to construct, expending, century after century, their innumerable energies in carrying these stones, which our machines now could not move. And the objective was always the same: to prolong indefinitely the perspectives of pylons, colossi and obelisks, continuing always this same artery of temples and palaces in the direction of the old Nile—while the latter, on the contrary, receded slowly, from century to century, towards Libya. It is here, and especially at night, that you suffer the feeling of having been shrunken to the size of a pygmy. All round you rise monoliths mighty as rocks. You have to take twenty paces to pass the base of a single one of them. They are placed quite close together, too close, it seems, in view of their enormity and mass. There is not enough air between them, and the closeness of their juxtaposition disconcerts you more, perhaps, even than their massiveness.