Thursday, January 1, 2015

Kosti, Sudan - November 25, 1945

In which Ralph tells his daughters about travel in Egypt, and illustrates the methods of drawing water for irrigation. 

Kosti, Sudan
Sunday, November 25, 1945

Dearest girls,

Well here we are at last, really on the Nile Steamer with the next stop Juba!  When in Cairo we wondered whether we would find a place on this boat or if we would have to wait at Khartoum for one or two weeks for another boat. But we learned there that the SIM people had reserved some places on this boat and would not be using them after all, and so we telegraphed to have them reserve the places for us.

Sketch by Ralph Kleinschmidt, 1945
Pole and counterweight irrigation method.
Drawing by Ralph Kleinschmidt, 1945
We left Cairo at 8:00PM last Monday.  We had a comfortable sleeping compartment on the train. There was a beautiful clear full moon and we could see much of the landscape, first along the Nile and then in the desert. The Arab villages, with roofless or flat-roofed houses were very interesting. Later, during daylight we saw more of the Nile and we were especially interested in the irrigation systems. They had two ways of lifting water from the Nile to spill it over into the irrigation ditches. One was by means of a long pole with a counterweight on one end and a rope and skin bag at the other. Two men would pull on the pole until the bag was lowered into the water. When the bag was full they would let go and the weight would raise the water and then the men would tip it over into the channel. They would keep this up a long time and so send water all over their fields.

Drawing by Ralph Kleinschmidt, 1945
Water wheel irrigation method.
Drawing by Ralph Kleinschmidt, 1945
Another way they used was by means of water wheels. These consisted of a very large wheel made of wood with clay water pots tied all around the circumference. Also around the circumference were wooden spokes like the teeth of a gear, and these mesh with similar spokes in a horizontal wheel near the ground. This last wheel is attached to a pole and that is pulled round and around by a camel or a donkey. The clay pots pick up water when they enter the river and when they get to the top they spill their water out into a trough that leads to the irrigation ditch.  This drawing isn't quite right as the water pots must go lower to get into the water.

The desert wasn't very interesting after having seen it for a while. We did see lots of camels (some baby camels too) and donkeys. Once we saw a tiny dik-dik running away from the train right out into the desert.

At Assuan [1] we stayed in a very nice hotel and were taken on a tour to see some old Egyptian ruins which were very interesting.  We went in an Arab "dhow" or sailboat and that was a lot of fun.

From Assuan we took another short train trip to Shellal where we got on a Nile boat for a two day trip to Wadi Halfa. That trip was not very interesting for it was through high water on account of the dam [2] at Assuan, and on each side of the river was desert. One very interesting feature however came at night when they took the boat very near the bank and shone a powerful searchlight on four colossal statues of Egyptian gods or kings which were carved out of the solid rock of the cliff. We were sorry it wasn't at daytime so that we could take pictures of it. (We bought a small box (Brownie) camera in Cairo.)

At Wadi Halfa we took a train to Khartoum and a few hours later took another train from Khartoum to Kosti where we are now on the boat. At Khartoum we were very much surprised and pleased to meet Mr. & Mrs. Chas. Sharland of Loko and Mr. Cook of Yei, who are going along with us on the same boat [3]. Mr. Cook you remember is the man who brought the telescope to Aba one time.

Our boat is due to leave today but we have heard there is something broken and so we may not go until tomorrow. This next part of the trip should be the most interesting, I think, although the hottest. We'll write you about that later.

With loads of love,

1.  Assuan is the older spelling for Aswan.
2.  This dam is the Aswan Low Dam, not to be confused with the Aswan High Dam, which was started in 1960 and completed in 1970.
3.  See this post regarding Mr. and Mrs. Sharland.  Note also that the spelling of "Yie" is more correctly done here as "Yei".

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