email a friend iconprinter friendly iconThreatened Treasures of the Nile
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For a time it appeared certain that the precious storage water would also swallow the world's archeological treasures here. For Nubia is a gigantic outdoor museum, where temples and fortresses and cemeteries along the Nile are the legacy of a parade of cultures harking back to the dawn of history.

Five thousand years ago, Egyptian Pharaohs left their mark on Nubia. Some two thousand years later, the Egyptian heritage was Africanized by the Nubians. For centuries, the Ptolemaic Greeks, and especially the Romans, helped shape Nubia's destinies, only to give way as a Christian culture gradually came in. The Middle Ages saw the Arabic influence, modern times the Turkish.

In all, some two dozen salvageable monuments of these civilizations, and hundreds of other antiquities, survive in the threatened part of Nubia.

Hoping to save them from the encroaching waters, the United Arab Republic and the Sudan turned for help to UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Thereupon, UNESCO appealed to all member states, and to private organizations and individuals as well, to assist in saving these mighty mementos of man's past.

Since then, a gigantic international salvage operation has sprung up, and I have visited Nubia more than half a dozen times to observe its progress. How eagerly I always looked forward to that poor, mysterious land. And my expectations were never more intense than at each first glimpse of Philae.

Every traveler who has held an Egyptian pound note in his hand is acquainted with Philae's landmarks, the Kiosk of the Emperor Trajan and the Temple of Isis. But few have come really close to this splendid preserve of Ptolemaic and Roman temples, barely 500 yards long and 160 yards wide; still fewer have set foot on it. For Philae is an island in the Nile, and most of the year it is covered almost entirely by the waters held by the old Aswân Dam.

Only when the Nubian summer reaches its peak does Philae emerge from the flood. And only when its covering of mud has dried and cracked does it invite the visitor to walk with wonder through the colonnades that lead from the landing place to the great Temple of Isis. In all Nubia there is no more harmonious combination of architecture and scenery. But summer's end brings rising waters, and once again Philae sinks beneath the Nile.

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