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THE GATEWAYS OF EGYPT

INVADER'S TASK, THE QUESTION OF WATER. The Sinai peninsula is a triangular tableland, measuring 260 miles from its Mediterranean' baso to its Rod Sea apex at Has Mahommed, and 150 miles across from Suoz to Akabah. It rises to 7,450fi above the sea at Mount Sinai, and to 8,530 ft at Jebel Um Shamar, gradually falling northward across the Desert of the Wandering, and draining towards the Mediterranean by the great depression of the Wady el Arish. Two narrow caravan routes lead across the peninsula to Egypt from Turkish territory, the first from Rafah by El Arisli to El Kantara, 143 miles ; tho second by Akabah through Nakhl to Suez, 150 miles. From Rafah to El Arish tho ground is sandy, and water is found only at Sheikh el Zauieh, 22 miles from El Arish. This latter town is situated among palm groves a mile and three-quarters from the beach, and it possesses numerous wells. From El Arish to Bir el Maza tho distance is 32 miles, and tho going usually sound. At El Maza there is only one well. 35ft deep, and 6ft of water. From Bir el Maza the distance is 31 miles over soft sandy desert to Bir el Abd, where there is a considerable supply of water from wells. Katieh is 17 miles further west, and here there is a large well with 6ft of water at a depth of 20ft, while a good supply of drinkable water can be found by digging at a depth of 1 Off to 20ft below the surface. From Katieh to El Kantara, 33 miles, the road traverses first- a marshy plain, then a long reach of holding sand dunes, and finally 16 miles of good hard desert. El Kantara is on the east bank of tho Suez Canal, and is supplied by water from the fresh-water canal by means of a pips which passes under the Suez Canal. The worst part of this route is that between El Arish and Bir el Abd, 63 miles, with a single well halfway. —The Sirhoniau Bog.— The section of the Mediterranean coast which Hanks the road from El Arish to El Kantara is low and dangerous, offering few facilities for a disembarkation. At the head of tho Bay of Pelusium, east of the Sue?, Canal, the five-fathom lino is 6£ miles from the beach. Sandbanks are numerous, the shoro is almost dead flat, and the only remarkable feature that can be distinguished from seaward at a distance of over three miles is the sandhill at Has Kasrun, 270 ft high and rather nv halfway between the Suez Canal . Arish. For some 50 miles, with ['{:. run as a centre, a long strip of ne. sand separates an interior lagoon, Laic Sirbon, from the sea. This lagoon is from two to six miles broad. It ends about 17 miles west of El Arish, where the shallows also end. and the five-fathom line is only half .i mile from the shore. Thus Lake Sirbon and the shallows of the Bay of Pelusium partially cover the sea flank of an army traversing the desert, and it is only in the vicinity of El Arish that a naval force can eifect anything serious until the Suez Canal is reached, and in the canal only bv ships with guns mounted at sufficient height to fire over the banks. —Napoleon's March.— When Napoleon invaded Syria his troops took three and a-half days to cover the dis tance from Katieh to El Arish, and three from El Arisli to (4nza. Tn his time there were six wells at El Arish. and in hi? opinion 20,000 men could be collected there. An army defending Kgypl c;)n either assemble at El Arish to oppose tbf investment of this place, or at Katieh to raise the siege of El Arish, or at Salihiycb. All these alternatives offer udvantnges. Of all obstacles which may cover the frontiers of empires a desert like this is incontestable- the greatest. Moun-

tains like the Alps take second rank, and rivers the third. If there is so much difficulty in carrying the food of an army that complete succesß is rarely obtained, this difficulty becomes 20 times greater when it is necessary to carry water, forage, And fuel, three things which are weighty, difficult to carry, and usually founa by armies upon tho ground they occupy. —Akaba and tho Southern Road.— Akaba, the Turkish position at the southern end of the- Egyptian frontier, is situated uniongst palm groves facing west, and has a vary pleasant appearance after the barren rock country ol Sinai. The village consists of a few mud huts built in Arab fa&hion, extremely dirty, and without any prominent house belonging to tho sheikh, such as is usually seen in Egyptian ezbehs. The population is composed of Bedouin, who do nothing all day, but there is no attempt to any bazaar or shops. The fort looks on to the sea-, and is very powerfully built, with thick walls 50ft high. It was constructed in the 16th century to protect the pilgrim route to Mecca, being the meeting-point of the roads from Palestine, Ei Arkh, and Suez. Tho water supply is wonderful, for within a few feet of tho tea one can scratch a hole 6in deep and obtain good fresh water. These holes are dug daily for about a mile along the sea front, and are used by camels and goats coming in from pasturage. The well of Tabah, which is in Egypt, is some seven mike from Akaba, ant? consists of a few d-om palms, but with no sign of habitation. It lies on the road fTom En Nueibia, the, Egyptian station, 40 miles south, and must be passed by any one wishing to proceed to Akaba or to the pass leading up to the Tih plateau. The well itself ie brackish, owing to neglect, and is never seen used by tha fishermen. But it is important a> being the only water supply between En Nueibia and Akaba. —Tho Pilgrim Route.— The pass, leading up from Akaba to the Tin, plateau is very steep and difficult for a heavily-loaded camel. The road iteelf has been well made, and is in fairly good preservation, but the" ascent of 2,uooft takes at least four hours. As soon as the top is reached tb<; broad track of tho pilgrim road is seen, extending westwards, almost dead level, and good going to within 20 miles of Suez, l'ho ground is hard, with scarcely any surface sand, eo that it would be possible to drive a motor car from one end to the other with only few interruptions where the Wady ei ArLsh crosses the road near Nakhi. Tho plateau is bounded on each side by aparallel line of low hills about six rnilce .ipart as far a-s Nakhl, and then becomes more open, stretching gradually towards the sea on the north. The main caravan route runs due west to Nakhl without touching any well, but Bi.r-et-Them-cd only lies a few hours off the track, and is generally reached after two days' march from Akaba. This well is hard to rind, as the track is much obliterated and the opening stands by. its-elf without any surrounding vegetation to indicate its presence. It is well built, and was probably not used by the pilgrims, as the supply is not sufficient for a big caravan. In summer the well is dry. Nakhl. the capita] of Sinai, is provided with immense reservoirs, which were filled on the approach of the pilgrim caravan, thus enabling thousands to get their water at one. time. The land round Nakhl is sown with barley, and maize in winter, but the crops are very poor, being only sufficient to ;>ed the 'new Baehi-Bazouks and <h-?ir wives and families. The remainder of ills journ-'V is much like ill" first part, till one descends na-t Meibeluk. wheiv> there is a. well, to Suez, whrr? lir-avy sand is first met with, ; but it is not. imnosfiibl? to that, a motor car could be driven across in 15 hours to a position commanding Sue?:.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19150119.2.2

Bibliographic details

THE GATEWAYS OF EGYPT, Issue 15704, 19 January 1915

Word Count
1,356

THE GATEWAYS OF EGYPT Issue 15704, 19 January 1915

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