THE Nile here flows through a channel narrowed by the approach of the bases of the Arabian and Libyan ranges of mountains, between which, at some very distant period, the river forced its way. The name of Hadjar Silsilis is Arabic, and has been derived from a tradition that the navigation was once guarded by a chain, which in this place was extended across the river: a highly improbable tale. The mountains are of sandstone, and the proximity to the river of a material so fitted for building and for ready conveyance, led to the vast excavations quarried on this spot, and of which the ancient Egyptians so extensively availed themselves, that Hadjar Silsilis is one of the most remarkable places for the traveller to visit on the Nile. The view is taken looking down the river; and it will be seen that the rocks are much higher on the right, or eastern, than on the western bank. It was on the eastern side, and near the commencement of the quarries, that the ancient town of Silsilis stood; but of this no trace remains except the substructions of what was probably a temple: on this side the elevation of the rocks is from sixty to one hundred feet above the river, and they are excavated to a much greater extent than on the western side, on which a strange form of rocks appears. Mr. Roberts supposes that among the fantastic cuttings this was left; but he did not visit it. The lofty cliffs are composed of a rock of fine and continuous texture, admirably fitted for the purpose to which it has been so largely applied. The quarries extend two or three miles along the river, and in many places roads have been carried into the heart of the mountain, and here we find the quarries which furnished the vast blocks for most of the great works of the Thebaid. Some of the excavations are six hundred feet long, three hundred feet wide, and from seventy to eighty feet high; but they nowhere appear to have been worked below the level of the Nile. Quarries upon so enormous a scale would attest the architectural grandeur of ancient Egypt, even if the ruins of the structures raised in Thebes and other cities, by the materials furnished from Hadjar Silsilis, no longer existed.

    Though on the eastern side the quarries are the most extensive, they are less interesting to the antiquary than the ancient works, which may be traced on the western bank. Figures and hieroglyphics  are inscribed on the rocks, and the bright colours with which they have been painted are in many places distinct and fresh. Here many curious grottoes and tablets of hieroglyphics have been executed in the early time of the Pharaohs of the eighteenth dynasty; one of these grottoes consists of a long corridor, supported by four pillars, cut in the face of the rock, on which, as well as on the interior wall, are sculptured several tablets of hieroglyphics, bearing the names of different kings; it was commenced by the successor of Amunoph III., the ninth Pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty, who here commemorated his defeat of the Ethiopians, by sculptured designs. Other excavations and tablets, hieroglyphics and sculptures, illustrate the reigns of others of the early Pharaohs, and of Remeses II. and his successors, to the nineteenth dynasty.

    The durability of the sandstone of these quarries is shewn, not only in the fine and sharp work executed on the columns, walls, and entablatures of the temples, and where, when uninjured by man, the forms left by the sculptor are still preserved, but in the quarries where the stones were hewn, the splinters lie about as fresh in appearance, says Dr. Richardson, “as if the labourer had left his work only the evening before and might be expected to return and resume it, but that evening was two thousand years ago.”



Wilkinson’s Egypt and Thebes.             Colonel Howard Vyse.                 Wathen’s Egypt             Dr. Richardson’s Travels.