CHAPTER I"A LAND OF OLD RENOWN"
If we were asked to name the most interesting country in the world, I suppose that most people would say Palestine—not because there is anything so very wonderful in the land itself, but because of all the great things that have happened there, and above all because of its having been the home of our Lord. But after Palestine, I think that Egypt would come next. For one thing, it is linked very closely to Palestine by all those beautiful stories of the Old Testament, which tell us of Joseph, the slave-boy who became Viceroy of Egypt; of Moses, the Hebrew child who became a Prince of Pharaoh's household; and of the wonderful exodus of the Children of Israel.
But besides that, it is a land which has a most strange and wonderful story of its own. No other country has so long a history of great Kings, and wise men, and brave soldiers; and in no other country can you see anything to compare with the great buildings, some of them most beautiful, all of them most wonderful, of which Egypt has so many. We have some old and interesting buildings in this country, and people go far to see cathedrals and castles that are perhaps five or six hundred years old, or even more; but in Egypt, buildings of that age are looked upon as almost new, and nobody pays very much attention to them. For the great temples and tombs of Egypt were, many of them, hundreds of years old before the story of our Bible, properly speaking, begins.
The Pyramids, for instance, those huge piles that are still the wonder of the world, were far older than any building now standing in Europe, before Joseph was sold to be a slave in Potiphar's house. Hundreds upon hundreds of years before anyone had ever heard of the Greeks and the Romans, there were great Kings reigning in Egypt, sending out their armies to conquer Syria and the Soudan, and their ships to explore the unknown southern seas, and wise men were writing books which we can still read. When Britain was a wild, unknown island, inhabited only by savages as fierce and untaught as the South Sea Islanders, Egypt was a great and highly civilized country, full of great cities, with noble palaces and temples, and its people were wise and learned.
So in this little book I want to tell you something about this wonderful and interesting old country, and about the kind of life that people lived in it in those days of long ago, before most other lands had begun to waken up, or to have any history at all. First of all, let us try to get an idea of the land itself. It is a very remarkable thing that so many of the countries which have played a great part in the history of the world have been small countries. Our own Britain is not very big, though it has had a great story. Palestine, which has done more than any other country to make the world what it is to-day, was called "the least of all lands." Greece, whose influence comes, perhaps, next after that of Palestine, is only a little hilly corner of Southern Europe. And Egypt, too, is comparatively a small land....