IN the north-eastern part of Africa lies the fertile land of Egypt. Egypt is not so large a country as one might suppose from the vast numbers that found a home there in the days of the Israelites. It is only a narrow strip of land on each side of the Nile, and is shut in on either hand by the sands of the desert; in some places the valley is several miles wide, and in others the sands creep down to the water's edge.

This country has but one river, the Nile, which, rising far south in the highlands of Central Africa, flows north, smooth and slow but with a strong current, toward the Mediterranean. As the river nears Cairo, it branches off into several strains, that empty into the Great Sea. This river forms a broad highway for travel, not only down but up the stream; for, by a wise provision of nature, a strong north wind blows almost constantly for three-fourths of the year, so that it is as easy to sail one way as the other.

Very little rain falls in Egypt, and the fertility of the land is wholly dependent on the waters of the Nile. About June the river begins to rise and overflow its banks, reaching the highest point near the middle of September; and by the end of November the fields are left dry so that they can be cultivated. The receding waters leave a deposit of slime over the land, which so greatly enriches it that it needs no other fertilizing. It is said that the slime which for ages has been accumulating on the land, is thirty or forty feet deep. As soon as the river falls back into its proper channel, the husbandman goes into the field to plant his crop. The seed is sown broadcast, and then, in the lower lands, pigs, sheep, or goats are turned in to trample the seed into the ground.  Sometimes it is dragged in with bushes. 'On the higher grounds, a rude plow is used to break up the earth.

The soil furnishes abundant crops of wheat, maize, and millet. There is a large variety of garden vegetables, together with grapes, figs, dates, olives, oranges, bananas, and other tropical fruits.

Along the sides of the high causeways, that are built up above the summer floods, are little water-wheels, forcing tiny streams of water up from the Nile to moisten the parched earth in the dry season. These rills fall off into canals, or furrows, made by the foot, that everywhere intersect the land like a vast net-work. It may be that Moses referred to this custom of watering the land by artificial means when he said to the children of Israel: "For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs; but the land whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven."

The ancient Egyptians were highly civilized. Shut in on all sides by the sands of the desert or by the sea, they were not easily approached by an enemy, and so were left to pursue the arts and industries for which they were so famous. They built vast pyramids, obelisks, and tombs, and reared magnificent palaces. Many of their monuments are standing at the present day; and one huge granite shaft has recently been brought over to America, and set up in Central Park, New York City. In the pictures painted on their monuments and in their tombs are seen scribes with inkhorns at their sides and pens behind their ears.  Glass-blowing was well known among them, and some of their richly colored bottles are still preserved.

But, most interesting of all, on the monuments is pictured the whole process of brick-making,—the slaves at work with the taskmasters over them, no doubt just the same as when the lives of the children of Israel were made "bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the, field."  Neither did they fall behind in medical science, for the mummies embalmed thousands of years ago are still in as good a condition as then.

Very few of the present inhabitants of Egypt are the real descendants of the old race. The people who claim to have sprung from them are nothing more than miserable beggars. The greater part of those who now live there are Turks and Arabs. The chief religion is that of Mohammedanism, and vast caravans pass yearly through Egypt on a pilgrimage to Mecca, the holy city of the Mohammedans. Perhaps the family in the picture have started on such a journey. The women hardly ever go out without their faces entirely covered except their eyes, as it is thought to be a great disgrace for them to be seen with uncovered faces. Egypt is not the proud-nation that it once was; for by the misrule of the Turks, misery and squalor are to be met on every hand. Little or no protection is afforded the inhabitants, and their most sacred relics, their monuments, and their tombs have been destroyed or carried away, and the people are powerless to help themselves. Truly here is a striking fulfillment of the sure word of prophecy, spoken by the prophet Ezekiel concerning Egypt: "They shall be a base kingdom. It shall be the basest of kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations: for I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations." Ezek. 29:14, 15.



W. E. L.