The Legacy to Modern Egypt 381
such as the Greeks, the Phoenicians, and the British. Now, as
of old, Alexandria is essentially a foreign town.
Nature has allowed Egypt to become a land of large economy
in one dimension only, north and south. Hence not only the
exchange system of the country-side, but its transport also
remains much as it ever was. The donkey has continued to be
the chief conveyance since before the Pyramid Age, because he
is so well fitted to the conditions. The only change is that he
is now ridden as well as driven, and that the camel has come
in to share his task.
The distances east and west are small, the land thickly popu-
lated, the towns numerous, the holdings small. Imagine the
dream of an enthusiastic modernist come true, and every peasant
owning a car. To make all the little holdings, down to one acre
and less, accessible to cars would sterilize so much land as would
seriously affect the food supply, nor would the capital invested
in carriage be proportionate to the loads carried. What produce
is not consumed locally, perhaps within earshot of the field, has
at most a few miles to go to the river or the nearest collecting
centre. Within easy reach of most villages flows a great water-
way which is blessed with a wind that blows one way and a
current in the opposite direction. It is the great artery fed by
innumerable capillaries, the banks of the canals and drains, and
nothing has yet been found more suitable to run along these
banks than the Egyptian donkey.
The slow and cheap transport is still provided by sailing
barges. They have changed their shape and enlarged their
capacity, but still convey the same kind of grain and trie same
kinds of pots, and load the same stone from the same quarries.
The nineteenth century has added cotton, maize, coal, and
other goods; it has supplemented sail with steam, and has
duplicated the river with a railway for fast transport; but once
more the new does not displace the old, but merely ekes it out.