For these or some other reasons Egypt has been occupied by man from the
most remote antiquity. The oldest records of the human race, made three
thousand years ago, speak of Egypt as ancient then, when they were
written. Not only is Tradition silent, but even Fable herself does not
attempt to tell the story of the origin of her population. Here stand
the oldest and most enduring monuments that human power has ever been
able to raise. It is, however, somewhat humiliating to the pride of the
race to reflect that the loftiest and proudest, as well as the most
permanent and stable of all the works which man has ever accomplished,
are but the incidents and adjuncts of a thin stratum of alluvial
fertility, left upon the sands by the subsiding waters of summer
showers.

The most important portion of the alluvion of the Nile is the northern
portion, where the valley widens and opens toward the sea, forming a
triangular plain of about one hundred miles in length on each of the
sides, over which the waters of the river flow in a great number of
separate creeks and channels. The whole area forms a vast meadow,
intersected every where with slow-flowing streams of water, and
presenting on its surface the most enchanting pictures of fertility,
abundance, and beauty. This region is called the Delta of the Nile.

The sea upon the coast is shallow, and the fertile country formed by the
deposits of the river seems to have projected somewhat beyond the line
of the coast; although, as the land has not advanced perceptibly for the
last eighteen hundred years, it may be somewhat doubtful whether the
whole of the apparent protrusion is not due to the natural conformation
of the coast, rather than to any changes made by the action of the
river.

The Delta of the Nile is so level itself, and so little raised above the
level of the Mediterranean, that the land seems almost a continuation of
the same surface with the sea, only, instead of blue waters topped with
white-crested waves, we have broad tracts of waving grain, and gentle
swells of land crowned with hamlets and villages. In approaching the
coast, the navigator has no distant view of all this verdure and beauty.
It lies so low that it continues beneath the horizon until the ship is
close upon the shore. The first landmarks, in fact, which the seaman
makes, are the tops of trees growing apparently out of the water, or the
summit of an obelisk, or the capital of a pillar, marking the site of
some ancient and dilapidated city.

[...]
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