Some people talk of the "sameness" of the Nile; and there is a lovely sameness of golden light, of delicious air, of people, and of scenery. For Egypt is, after all, mainly a great river with strips on each side of cultivated land, flat, green, not very varied. River, green plains, yellow plains, pink, brown, steel-grey, or pale-yellow mountains, wail of shadoof, wail of sakieh. Yes, I suppose there is a sameness, a sort of golden monotony, in this land pervaded with light and pervaded with sound. Always there is light around you, and you are bathing in it, and nearly always, if you are living, as I was, on the water, there is a multitude of mingling sounds floating, floating to your ears. As there are two lines of green land, two lines of mountains, following the course of the Nile; so are there two lines of voices that cease their calling and their singing only as you draw near to Nubia. For then, with the green land, they fade away, these miles upon miles of calling and singing brown men; and amber and ruddy sands creep downward to the Nile. And the air seems subtly changing, and the light perhaps growing a little harder. And you are aware of other regions unlike those you are leaving, more African, more savage, less suave, less like a dreaming. And especially the silence makes a great impression on you. But before you enter this silence, between the amber and ruddy walls that will lead you on to Nubia, and to the land of the crocodile, you have a visit to pay. For here, high up on a terrace, looking over a great bend of the river is Kom Ombos. And Kom Ombos is the temple of the crocodile god.

Sebek was one of the oldest and one of the most evil of the Egyptian gods. In the Fayum he was worshipped, as well as at Kom Ombos, and there, in the holy lake of his temple, were numbers of holy crocodiles, which Strabo tells us were decorated with jewels like pretty women. He did not get on with the other gods, and was sometimes confused with Set, who personified natural darkness, and who also was worshipped by the people about Kom Ombos.

I have spoken of the golden sameness of the Nile, but this sameness is broken by the variety of the temples. Here you have a striking instance of this variety. Edfu, only forty miles from Kom Ombos, the next temple which you visit, is the most perfect temple in Egypt. Kom Ombos is one of the most imperfect. Edfu is a divine house of "the Hidden One," full of a sacred atmosphere. Kom Ombos is the house of crocodiles. In ancient days the inhabitants of Edfu abhorred, above everything, crocodiles and their worshippers. And here at Kom Ombos the crocodile was adored. You are in a different atmosphere.

As soon as you land, you are greeted with crocodiles, though fortunately not by them. A heap of their black mummies is shown to you reposing in a sort of tomb or shrine open at one end to the air. By these mummies the new note is loudly struck. The crocodiles have carried you in an instant from that which is pervadingly general to that which is narrowly particular; from the purely noble, which seems to belong to all time, to the entirely barbaric, which belongs only to times outworn. It is difficult to feel as if one had anything in common with men who seriously worshipped crocodiles, had priests to feed them, and decorated their scaly necks with jewels.

Yet the crocodile god had a noble temple at Kom Ombos, a temple which dates from the times of the Ptolemies, though there was a temple in earlier days which has now disappeared. Its situation is splendid. It stands high above the Nile, and close to the river, on a terrace which has recently been constructed to save it from the encroachments of the water. And it looks down upon a view which is exquisite in the clear light of early morning. On the right, and far off, is a delicious pink bareness of distant flats and hills. Opposite there is a flood of verdure and of trees going to mountains, a spit of sand where is an inlet of the river, with a crowd of native boats, perhaps waiting for a wind. On the left is the big bend of the Nile, singularly beautiful, almost voluptuous in form, and girdled with a radiant green of crops, with palm-trees, and again the distant hills. Sebek was well advised to have his temples here and in the glorious Fayum, that land flowing with milk and honey, where the air is full of the voices of the flocks and herds, and alive with the wild pigeons; where the sweet sugar-cane towers up in fairy forests, the beloved home of the jackal; where the green corn waves to the horizon, and the runlets of water make a maze of silver threads carrying life and its happy murmur through all the vast oasis.

At the guardian's gate by which you go in there sits not a watch dog, nor yet a crocodile, but a watch cat, small, but very determined, and very attentive to its duties, and neatly carved in stone. You try to look like a crocodile-worshipper. It is deceived, and lets you pass. And you are alone with the growing morning and Kom Ombos.

I was never taken, caught up into an atmosphere, in Kom Ombos. I examined it with interest, but I did not feel a spell. Its grandeur is great, but it did not affect me as did the grandeur of Karnak. Its nobility cannot be questioned, but I did not stilly rejoice in it, as in the nobility of Luxor, or the free splendor of the Ramesseum.

The oldest thing at Kom Ombos is a gateway of sandstone placed there by Thothmes III. as a tribute to Sebek. The great temple is of a warm- brown color, a very rich and particularly beautiful brown, that soothes and almost comforts the eyes that have been for many days boldly assaulted by the sun. Upon the terrace platform above the river you face a low and ruined wall, on which there are some lively reliefs, beyond which is a large, open court containing a quantity of stunted, once big columns standing on big bases. Immediately before you the temple towers up, very gigantic, very majestic, with a stone pavement, walls on which still remain some traces of paintings, and really grand columns, enormous in size and in good formation. There are fine architraves, and some bits of roofing, but the greater part is open to the air. Through a doorway is a second hall containing columns much less noble, and beyond this one walks in ruin, among crumbled or partly destroyed chambers, broken statues, become mere slabs of granite and fallen blocks of stone. At the end is a wall, with a pavement bordering it, and a row of chambers that look like monkish cells, closed by small doors. At Kom Ombos there are two sanctuaries, one dedicated to Sebek, the other to Heru-ur, or Haroeris, a form of Horus in Egyptian called "the Elder," which was worshipped with Sebek here by the admirers of crocodiles. Each of them contains a pedestal of granite upon which once rested a sacred bark bearing an image of the deity.

There are some fine reliefs scattered through these mighty ruins, showing Sebek with the head of a crocodile, Heru-ur with the head of a hawk so characteristic of Horus, and one strange animal which has no fewer than four heads, apparently meant for the heads of lions. One relief which I specially noticed for its life, its charming vivacity, and its almost amusing fidelity to details unchanged to-day, depicts a number of ducks in full flight near a mass of lotus-flowers. I remembered it one day in the Fayum, so intimately associated with Sebek, when I rode twenty miles out from camp on a dromedary to the end of the great lake of Kurun, where the sand wastes of the Libyan desert stretch to the pale and waveless waters which, that day, looked curiously desolate and even sinister under a low, grey sky. Beyond the wiry tamarisk-bushes, which grow far out from the shore, thousands upon thousands of wild duck were floating as far as the eyes could see. We took a strange native boat, manned by two half-naked fishermen, and were rowed with big, broad-bladed oars out upon the silent flood that the silent desert surrounded. But the duck were too wary ever to let us get within range of them. As we drew gently near, they rose in black throngs, and skimmed low into the distance of the wintry landscape, trailing their legs behind them, like the duck on the wall of Kom Ombos. There was no duck for dinner in camp that night, and the cook was inconsolable. But I had seen a relief come to life, and surmounted my disappointment.

Kom Ombos and Edfu, the two houses of the lovers and haters of crocodiles, or at least of the lovers and the haters of their worship, I shall always think of them together, because I drifted on the /Loulia/ from one to the other, and saw no interesting temple between them and because their personalities are as opposed as were, centuries ago, the tenets of those who adored within them. The Egyptians of old were devoted to the hunting of crocodiles, which once abounded in the reaches of the Nile between Assuan and Luxor, and also much lower down. But I believe that no reliefs, or paintings, of this sport are to be found upon the walls of the temples and the tombs. The fear of Sebek, perhaps, prevailed even over the dwellers about the temple of Edfu. Yet how could fear of any crocodile god infect the souls of those who were privileged to worship in such a temple, or even reverently to stand under the colonnade within the door? As well, perhaps, one might ask how men could be inspired to raise such a perfect building to a deity with the face of a hawk? But Horus was not the god of crocodiles, but a god of the sun. And his power to inspire men must have been vast; for the greatest concentration in stone in Egypt, and, I suppose, in the whole world, the Sphinx, as De Rouge proved by an inscription at Edfu, was a representation of Horus transformed to conquer Typhon. The Sphinx and Edfu! For such marvels we ought to bless the hawk-headed god. And if we forget the hawk, which one meets so perpetually upon the walls of tombs and temples, and identify Horus rather with the Greek Apollo, the yellow-haired god of the sun, driving "westerly all day in his flaming chariot," and shooting his golden arrows at the happy world beneath, we can be at peace with those dead Egyptians. For every pilgrim who goes to Edfu to-day is surely a worshipper of the solar aspect of Horus. As long as the world lasts there will be sun-worshippers. Every brown man upon the Nile is one, and every good American who crosses the ocean and comes at last into the sombre wonder of Edfu, and I was one upon the deck of the /Loulia/.

And we all worship as yet in the dark, as in the exquisite dark, like faith, of the Holy of Holies of Horus.