Egyptian irrigation


Material Information

Egyptian irrigation a study of irrigation methods and administration in Egypt
Series Title:
Office of Experiment Stations ;
Physical Description:
100 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
Johnston, Clarence T
United States -- Office of Experiment Stations
Office of Experiment Stations, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
Place of Publication:
Washington, D.C
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Irrigation -- Egypt   ( lcsh )
Irrigation -- Egypt   ( lcsh )
federal government publication   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Additional Physical Form:
Also issued online.
Statement of Responsibility:
Clarence T. Johnston.

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University of Florida
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oclc - 08229199
ddc - 631.7 J72e
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A. C. TRUE. Director.








A. C. TRUE, Ph. D., Director.
E. W. ALLEN, Ph. D., Assistant Director.


C. T. JOHNSTON, Assistant Chief in Cita.rge Central District.
SAMUEL FORTIER, Agent and Expert in Charge Pacific District.
C. G. ELLIOTT, Agent and Expert in Charge of Drainage Inrestigations.
R. P. TEELE, Editorial Assistant.
C. E. TAIT, Assistant in Charge of Maps and Illustrations.



IrWsh ington, D. C., Jaty 920, 1903.
SIR: 1 have the honor to transmit herewith and to recommend for
publication a report on Egyptian irrigation, prepared under the direc-
tion of Elwood Mead, chief of irrigation investigations of this Office,
by C. T. Johnston, assistant chief.
This report gives the results of observations made by'Mr. Johnston
during the winter of 1901-2 on the irrigation works, practices, and
administrative system of Egypt, under authority of the act of Con-
gress making appropriations for the irrigation investigations of this
Office, which provides, among other things, for investigation and
.report upon "the laws and institutions relating to irriga-
tion and upon the use of irrigation water at home or abroad."
The bulletin is illustrated by twenty-five full page plate illustrations
and nine text figures, all of which are necessary to a complete elucida-
tion of the text.
Secretary of Agriculture.

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Wlaihinyton, D. C., JMy 20, 1903.
SIR: I have the honor to submit herewith a report on Egyptian
irrigation, prepared by Clarence T. Johnston, assistant chief of irri-
gation investigations of this Office. Mr. Johnston spent the winter of
1901-2 in Egypt, making a study of irrigation methods and laws.
This report gives the results of his observations and inquiries.
In the valley of the Nile irrigation has been practiced-for thousands
of years, and if time and experience were in themselves sufficient we
ought to find water distributed with more skill and used with better
results there than in any other country. Such, however, is not the
case. On the contrary, the irrigators of this country have little to
learn from Egypt so far as practical methods are concerned. The
reasons for this are not obscure. One is the lack of inventive and
mechanical skill on the part of the fellah. Here every implement used
in agriculture has been subject to constant change and improvement;
the Egyptian still uses a crooked stick for a plow and beats out his
corn as did his ancestors in the time of the Pharaohs. In this country
we have already evolved special machinery for the construction of
canals, building of laterals, and cleaning out and enlarging of ditches;
in Egypt many canals are still cleaned by throwing the mud out by
hand. The lessons of Egypt, therefore, so far as irrigation practice
is concerned, are of negative value. There is another reason why this
is so. Irrigators in Egypt are paid 15 cents a day. Their methods
are possible only with this low wage rate, hence they can not be
adopted in a country like ours, where higher wages are paid.
The showing of the yield and profits of irrigated land in Egypt is,
however, full of significance and promise to the arid commonwealths.
It is only on irrigated land that the average net return from sugar
cane reaches $80 to $85 an acre. The revenues of the Egyptian Gov-
ernment from the areas devoted to dates runs from S10 to $45 an acre,
and the net profit to the cultivator approximates $150 an acre. This
little tract of agricultural land, no larger than the irrigable area of


California, supports between 5,000,000 and 6,000,000 people, pays the
expenses of a costly government, and meets the interest on a national '.
debt half as large as our own from the returns on agriculture alone.
Three subjects have a vital relation to the future extension of irri-
gation in this country. These are storage, drainage, and the utiliza-
tion of water by pumping. The great storage works of Egypt have .
especial interest to our Government engineers; but Egypt has few
examples of the small storage works such as are being built in large
numbers by private parties in the West and which are destined to be
an important feature of our irrigation systems. The accumulation of
alkali in the surface soil, which has already become a troublesome
feature in Western irrigation, at one time rendered unproductive
large areas in lower Egypt. These are being reclaimed by drains
which carry off the excess of salts and tend to prevent their further
accumulation. So far as lifting water from wells or streams is con-
cerned, the devices in Egypt are inferior to the gasoline and electric
engines and centrifugal pumps now extensively used in the West.
Some of the simpler and cheaper devices of Egypt are efficient for the
lifting of small quantities of water, and there are many places in this
country where such machines can be used to advantage.
Mr. Johnston's description of the dams built by the French and
English Governments will have much interest. Their success from
an engineering standpoint and the great benefits which have come to
the people from this expenditure of government funds are unques-
tioned. But it is doubtful if we can adopt the administrative methods
employed in Egypt. Political and economic conditions in that country
differ so widely from our own that methods which are there useful
are clearly inapplicable here. Egypt is governed by a foreign power,
which has assumed arbitrary control over the water supply, recogniz-
ing no rights as belonging to the users of this water. Such a system
has brought about an efficient use of the Nile, but it is repugnant to
American ideas. It is a success in Egypt because of lack of means on
the part of the agricultural population and lack of the experience in
business and political affairs, needed for the successful operation of
irrigation systems under private ownership. The American farmer
has both the economic ability necessary to the management of irriga-
tion works and the political power and the intelligence to create insti-
tutions for controlling the water supply which will be in harmony
with our ideas of free government. The study of Egyptian laws and
administrative methods, while interesting, is of little value as an
example to be followed.
Respectfully submitted.
Chief of Irrigation Investigations.
A. C. TRUE, Director. .


A general view of Egypt..---...............------------....--- --.. -----.. 12
The Nile..----...-............--......--.....-------....--........--- 20
Nile gages ..........----..---------..... ..---------.-------.----. 26
Agricultural seasons --..---...--.-------------------.----------------- 27
Farms and villages ..-----....-......---------------....---------------------- 29
Cost of raising crops and value of farm products .-.......--- ------------ 31
Development of Egyptian irrigation..----......------ ....---.......--------. 32
The canals of the Nile Valley ..---...--------------...............--------.........--......----- 34
Construction and maintenance of canals and levees ..-..------..---------... 39
Water-raising devices----........--.......--------------------------------- 40
The shaduf .........--- ...........------------------..--------- -------- -- 40
The sakiyeh ........ .-------------.....------. ----------------------- 41
The Archimedean screw ......-- ----------..... ---------.................------- ------ 43
The natali ----..............-- ..-- .....-- ....-------..--..-------....------- 44
Pumping .....-------------..-------........ --------....-------.. .... 44
Duty of water.......--....---...... ---.....----..-----..------.------.. -- 45
The Cairo barrage ---....-----..-----------------------............................... 47
Reservoirs .....-...-- ...-- .........----------.. --------------..--....---- 49
The Assuan reservoir .....-----........----..-----------..---------..-----. 52
The Assiut dam ---- ------ ---------.. .... ------................------. 58
Drainage ..-..---- ...-------..--..-- -----------....... -----......--.. ---- 59
Laws and regulations .....-----...........---... ----....--..--............ 61
Conditions to be considered ...-- -------.................. ..... .... ----61
Authority of officials ..----...........---- .....----- -..-..-- ..-..----. 61
Causes of litigation .......................................--............ 65
Irrigation and drainage laws --......---.....-----------------................. 67
Installation of water-raising devices -..--------.-------------------.-. 72
Drainage...--- ...---------.----..--..--..-----..-------......---.--- 74
The corve ..---....-..-- ..............-........--.-- ......--- ....------.... 74
Reform of the corv6e system ---....-----...-..------.......---.. ....-. 78
Conclusions--....- .........-------.----....--....--................. ...... 81
Appendix I ..--................. ... ....................-................ 83
Powers of the governors and inspectors of irrigation .................... 83
Canals and levees------------...........-------.....-.....-----..----------....-----..----................. 85
Order of the Minister of the Interior of July 16, 1898.-..--.............. 94
Appendix II .-..---..-----.....---...-.......-...-......-- ............... 96
Installation of machines for elevating water .-------.........-- ........ 96
Appendix III .....-- ...-----.--... ---....- .............................. 99
Drainage of swamps and marshes -..-.----...---..--...--.........--- -.. 99



Manufia Canal -..------". ----------------------------------... Frontispiece.
PLATE I. Map of Egypt, showing provinces and irrigation circles..---......... 12
II. Fig. 1.-Plowing with ox and buffalo. Fig. 2.-Plowing land which
has been baked by the sun .................-.................... 16
III. Cleaning a large canal ........-- ........ ------ -..........-- ..... 16
IV. Fig. 1.-Irrigation basin near Pyramids of Gizeh. Fig. 2.-Irriga-
tion basin west of Cairo, water returning to Nile in channel ...... 28
V. Fig. 1.-Irrigating strawberries. Fig. 2.-Perennial irrigation, wheat
field under check system of irrigation ......-..........-........ 28
VI. Fig. 1.-Thrashing Indian corn. Fig. 2.-Thrashing wheat ........ 28
VII. Plat of the village of Talbia, showing town and tributary farms..... 28
VIII. Map showing irrigation works in a portion of the province of Keneh 32
IX. Fig. 1.-Camels carrying ruins of village to be used for fertilizer.
Fig. 2.-Cleaning a small canal---.....--....................... 32
X. Map of the Nile Valley from Cairo to the Delta showing the location
of the barrages and the head works of the principal canals ------. 36
XI. Fig. 1.-Lateral head gate. Fig. 2.- Head gate of Manufia Canal... 40
XII. The shaduf .. ....- .... ..... ...........-.. ........... .....-..... 40
XIII. Fig. 1.-Sakiyehs. Fig. 2.-A steam pump on a scow --.........-- 44
XIV. Archimedean screw, showing interior construction at right......... 44
X V. The natali .................................-..--......-......... 44
XVI. Fig. 1.-The Damietta barrage from eastern bank of the Nile. Fig.
2.-Rosetta barrage from western bank of the Nile -------------. 48
XVII. Details of the Cairo barrage-........................-. ...-......- 48
XVIII. Map comparing the Nile Valley with that of the Platte River ...... 52
XIX. Map showing the Assuan dam across the Nile -------------------- 52
XX. The Assuan dam .----. .---............--................-....... 52
XXI. Western end of Assuan dam from downstream, January 7, 1902 .... 52
XXII. Fig. 1.-Cast-iron lining for sluiceways being put in place at the
Assuan dam. Fig. 2.-Deep foundation work near western end of
Assuan dam ..........---- ----- ............... ......... ........ 56
XXIII. Diversion dam across the Nile at Assiut--..................-....... 60
XXIV. Map of lower Egypt, showing principal canals and drains ......... 60


Fic. 1. Diagram showing discharge of the Mississippi at St. Louis and of the
Nile at Assuan..---.....-----. --. ......---- ..... ........... ..... 22
2. Diagram showing discharge of the Nile at Assuan and of the Missouri
at Kansas City .--------. -------.....---........... ... .. ......... 23
3. Spur to prevent erosion of river banks ........... ... ..........----.. 25
4. Nilometer on the Elephantine Iland ---------..--.................... 26
5. Diagram showing inaccuracy of land measurements ................. 30
6. Typical cross section of the Nile Valley.--....------...-..-- ........ 33
7. Hoe used by native farmers -...------...... .....-- ......-.......... 39
8. Cross section of Assuan dam -------...............---................ 5.
9. Details of apparatus for raising gates, Assuan dam ................... 54

. ". .... ... .






The studies on which this report is based were. made during the
winter of 1901-2 as a part of the work of the irrigation investigations
of the U. S. Department of Agriculture. The object was not the com-
piling of an exhaustive treatise on Egyptian irrigation, but rather
the study of agricultural practices, engineering works, and adminis-
trative measures for comparison with American works and methods,
with a view to the improvement of the latter, giving especial attention
to administrative methods.
The plan followed was to become conversant with the irrigation law
of Egypt, then follow its application in the field. Such a study of
irrigation administration can best be carried on with Cairo as a base.
All the engineers having charge of the division of water have their
offices there, and it is easy to reach any other part of the country from
that city. Fortunately the laws had been compiled in French during
the year 1901, and copies could be had for the asking.
The inspector of irrigation was absent from Cairo during the winter
of 1901-2, and his duties were attended to by the inspectors of Lower
and Upper Egypt. Under any circumstances these two officers and
the chief of the technical department, who has charge of the installa-
tion of water-raising devices and the inspection of steam boilers used
in connection with pumps, shoulder a large part of the responsibility.
These officers gladly gave such information as they had in their pos-
session, and referred such inquiries as they could not answer directly
to those who were informed on the subject.
The great Nile dams would naturally be examined by one interested
in irrigation, and the canals can be studied with profit. One feature
of Egyptian irrigation which is almost lacking in America is the use
of water-raising devices. The Egyptian farmer seldom is able to
secure enough fall to permit the delivery of water by gravity alone.
The problem of raising water from some of the streams of the United
States will have to be solved in the near future. Wherever a river
flows in a canyon or where the grade of a stream is small it is often
advantageous to lift the water to the head of a canal instead of build-
ing a long or difficult line. It also makes the maintenance of large
diversion works unnecessary. In view of these facts information was

rw.~~ -1


collected relating to the construction and cost of the devices en
their efficiency, and cost of operation.
In Egypt as in America the use of water on the higher lands :'h
ruined large areas of lower lands by raising the ground water, and wi'
it the alkaline salts from the subsoil. Work for reclaiming thesalki j
lands has gone much farther in Egypt than in America, and Egyptin
methods were, therefore, studied with much interest.

Northern Africa would be an uninterrupted desert from the Atlantic
to the Red Sea, except for a narrow strip bordering the Mediterranan,
if it were not for the Nile. As it is, there is only a thread of arable
land in the valley of the river, the surrounding desert being absolutely
Egypt proper extends from Assuan to the Mediterranean. (See
map, Pl. I.) South of Assuan is Nubia, which extends as far south
as Khartum. The valley of the Nile is very narrow. But little culti-
vated country is found from Assuan to Luxor; the width of the valley
between Assuan and Cairo varies from practically nothing to 9 miles,
and there are a number of places where the desert touches the Nile on
either bank, as at the point where the Gebel Silsileh hills cross the Nile.
Between Edfu and Assuan there are many places where the drifting q
sands from the desert are encroaching upon the agricultural land.
From Assuan to Edfu, a distance of about 90 miles, the agricultural land
is about equally distributed on either bank. From Edfu to Erment, a
distance of about 80 miles, the agricultural land is nearly all on the
western shore, having an average width of 3 miles. From Erment to
Assiut, over 200 miles, a large part of the agricultural land is on the
left bank. From Assiut to Cairo the agricultural land is practically
all on the left bank. At a point about 60 miles above Cairo the valley
reaches its maximum width of about 9 mile, near where the Yusef i
Canal crosses the Lybian Desert into the Fayum. The delta proper
begins some 12 miles below Cairo, and is triangular in shape, being
nearly 120 miles on each side. The greater part of the irrigable land.
of Egypt lies in the delta, but only about half of the land that is
actually farmed at the present time is found there. The remaining
lands are being brought under cultivation by drainage and other
reclamation works. The total agricultural area of Egypt is 5,000,000 i
acres or about four times the area of the State of Rhode Island.
The writer arrived in Alexandria in the early part of December,
1901. An Egyptian winter compares favorably with a Colorado
summer. Everything is in summer garb, the vegetation being more
attractive than it appears (luring the preceding hot months., Even
the natives prefer the winter season, although they feel the chill of
the night air and suffer from an occasional shower.

U. S. Dept. of Agr., Bul. 130 Office of Expt. S;ators Irigatior investigators












After passing the custom-house at Alexandria and driving through
narrow streets to the railway station the train for Cairo is boarded and
soon the country is reached where palm trees wave their tops on
either side. Lower Egypt in the vicinity of Alexandria is not attrac-
tive. Much of the land needs draining and a large part of that visible
from the railway train is devoted to the growing of forage grasses.
Open drains can be seen on either side and occasionally large canals
parallel the track. The Mahmoudia Canal, which supplies the city of
Alexandria with fresh water, lies on the north side of the railway and
it is visible a part of the time during the first half-hour's ride toward
Cairo. A roadway is provided on the banks of the canal and the
native traffic is fully as interesting as the country through which the
railway has been built. Long lines of camels loaded with cotton are
followed by others carrying huge bundles of cotton stalks to be used
for fuel. The stalks completely cover the camels so that it appears as
if the burden furnished its own means of locomotion. The sails of
the boats on the canal are seen when the banks of the canal are low or
where the railway grade is high, and at times a view of the hulls and
the cargoes is obtained. Cotton, fruit, straw, sugar cane, and vege-
tables seem to be the chief articles of exchange. Between 15 and 20
miles from Alexandria the first cotton fields are seen on the south side
of the railway. Farther on camels are lying in the fields while the
farmer loads on their backs farm products of different kinds in readi-
ness for a trip to some nearby market. The cotton is pressed into
bales, which are left on the ground to be carried later to a water front
and thence to Alexandria. In quality the cotton is second only to
American Sea Island cotton and the United States secures from 40 to
60 per cent of the entire Egyptian staple. The towns and villages
are all on higher ground than is the surrounding farming land. This
may be due in part to the selection of the site and in part to the
gradual elevation of the villages as the buildings crumble and new
ones are erected in their places. The markets are well supplied with
fruits, among which the mandarin and other oranges seem to predom-
inate. Dates, figs, bananas, and other fruits are common. The cul-
tivated land grows richer as the Rosetta branch of the Nile is
approached. The fig tree, the lebbek, the eucalyptus, and several
varieties of the palm add much to the beauty of the landscape. Acacia
trees of several varieties are seen here and there and the mulberry
and numerous kinds of thorn trees abound. Vines of different kinds
trail over buildings wherever conditions permit.
The Rosetta branch of the Nile is reached after a ride of nearly two
hours. It is 63 miles by rail from Alexandria. The river is broad
and is covered with craft of various kinds. Just beyond is the village
of Kafr-ez-Zaiyat. The country greatly improves beyond the Rosetta
branch of the Nile, and the farming scenes around Tanta can not be


surpassed in Egypt. Farmers are in their fields cultivating the ground
and cleaning away cotton stalks and -other vegetation of the summer
season. Here and there are oxen pulling wooden plows and farmers
are cultivating by hand the land which can not be worked conveniently
in any other way. Along some of the canals water-raising machines
are in operation. Here and there two sturdy men are swinging a basket
and lifting water from a canal for the irrigation of nearby farms.
(See p. 44.) Herds of water buffalo, cattle, sheep, and occasionally
horses can be seen grazing in the fields of clover.
A number of large canals, many of which are branches of the Manu-
fia Canal, which leaves the Nile at the head of the delta, are seen from
the train. The Damietta branch of the Nile is crossed, and after pass-
ing a few small towns and crossing a deep canal, which has been com-
pleted since the occupation by the English, the Pyramids, 20 miles
away, come into view, and Cairo is reached.
Many interesting scenes can be witnessed in Cairo itself, showing
the methods employed by farmers and gardeners. Between Cairo and
Old Cairo to the south are a number of small tracts of farming land
where the native may be seen at work. Across the river from Cairo
a trolley line runs to the Pyramids of Gizeb. Along this for a distance
of 6 or 7 miles one can see farmers working in the fields almost any
time. The farms spread out on either side resemble but little those
with which we are familiar in the United States. No fences are seen
and no houses have been provided on the farms themselves. The
farms are narrow, and it is impossible to use a mowing machine
or a binder on some of them for this reason. Dwelling houses are
found only in the villages, except where perennial irrigation has been
practiced for many years.
Early in December wheat and barley are just sprouting from the
ground in places while some lands are being prepared for the seed.
Clover and beans are usually well advanced. Corn is piled here and
there along the levees where it is to be husked during the later winter
months. The fields of clover on either side are dotted with buffalo
and other live stock. The farmer himself is a picture not to be for-
gotten. His long-flowing black or white gown, while not appearing
to be designed for the convenience of a laborer, lends attractiveness to
the farming scenes.
The view from any point along the road to the Pyramids is full of
interest. To the east is the village of Gizeh, the Nile, and, beyond it,
Old Cairo and the hills of the Arabian Desert on the horizon. Either
to the north or south nothing can be seen but green fields, canals,
levees, and villages of sun-dried brick, sheltered by palms and other
trees. To the west is the Lybian Desert, the Pyramids of Gizeh, and
the Sphinx. The latter looks over the farming lands below and across
the Nile, as it has for 2,800 years. It is supposed to represent the

"' i'



king, Amenemhet III, the great builder and the reformer of the practice
of irrigation in Egypt. It seems that the famous monument to him
was planned so that it should be a permanent witness of the career of
the fellah and of the progress of irrigation.
The fellah, although he has been ruled by one foreign power after
another, has been almost as unchanging as his surroundings. Whether
from lack of ingenuity or because he is satisfied with the appliances
of his forefathers, the Egyptian makes very little progress in the con-
struction or use of agricultural or scientific instruments. The writers
of the hieroglyphs on the temples constructed four thousand or five
thousand years ago might have received their inspiration from scenes in
the fields to-day. The fellah plows his ground with a wooden plow or
stirs it with a hoe or with a more primitive wooden implement. (Pl.
II.) He cultivates the growing crops with a hoe and harvests them with
a sickle or pulls the stalks from the ground by hand. The grain is
either beaten out with a flail or trodden and chopped out by means of a
wooden sledge furnished with rollers carrying disks and drawn bv-oxen.
Egyptian agricultural methods would not look so much out of place
were it not that at the present time considerable areas are owned by
foreigners who have adopted modern methods. An improved thrash-
ing machine may be at work in a field adjoining a plat where a native
farmer is wearing out the straw in thrashing the grain by a primitive
method which antedates biblical times. It is not uncommon to see a
steam plow and one pulled by a camel and a buffalo working in adjoin-
ing fields. An immense modern steam pumping plant may be operated
alongside a shaduf or a sakiyeh, and the native when interviewed will
point with pride to the superior machine he employs.
After visiting the great barrage below Cairo and noting how the
structure is maintained by the government, how it serves as a bridge
across the Nile as well as a diversion work, how well the navigation
interests of the Nile and the large canals have been conserved, and
how beautifully the grounds of the southern extremity of the delta in
the vicinity of the dam have been laid out in parks, the writer made
arrangements to visit the Fayum province at the extremity of the Bahr
Yusef Canal (the water of Joseph), some 75 miles southwest of Cairo.
The province can best be reached by rail, going from Cairo 40 miles
up the river to Wasta and there changing cars for the capital city,
Medinet el Fayum. The morning fixed upon for the trip happened
to be foggy and cold for Egypt. But little could be seen except the
country lying near the railroad. Sugar cane, date-palm trees, and
wheat fields abound and occasionally fields of clover and beans could
be identified. After leaving Wasta it requires a run of only a few
minutes to reach the margin of the cultivated lands. Soon the desert
was entered and no sign of vegetation could be seen. Along the mar-
gin of the valley the hills break off abruptly and the country is rather


rolling, but as soon as one leaves the slope toward the Nile the ....
is comparatively flat and uninteresting.
After traversing the desert for about thirty minutes signs of cUt
ovation began to appear, although the land showed that the water sup
ply had not been adequate. As the soil is sandy, much water is need
to maintain plant growth. But few trees have been planted in
district and the houses of the farmers are scattered here and t
indicating that their location had not been fixed by any prearran ..
plan. As the flood of the Nile does not reach the Fayum, the villg ~
life so common in the valley of the Nile is not essential. As Medin4
el Fayum is approached the country takes on new life and thbe oi: .:
changes to a black loam which yields all kinds of abundant
The town is situated along the bank of Joseph's Canal, which fu
the life of the province and adds much to the attractions of th tiwii.. ..
The country around the town is very productive, and affords- an
excellent opportunity for studying Egyptian agricultural method. .
The entire province slopes toward a lake which lies along the margin
of the desert to the northwest of the capital. The fall of the country
is considerable, enabling the farmer to irrigate his field by gravity ;;,,,
is done in the United States. Many lifting devices are found alo:lng ii
the canals, however, which serve for the irrigation of lands lyiu*
adjacent to them. To the east of the town the canal is less attractive:
than it is within the limits of the capital, because it is more tortuous
and the material which has been taken out in cleaning the channel hase
been deposited in heaps along the banks. The thrifty appearance of
all growing crops is sufficient evidence of the fertility of the soil and ;
the effectiveness of the irrigation system. Many trees seldom seen in
the valley of the Nile can be found in this province. Among these
the olive predominates. Date palms, oranges, and figs are extensively
grown and the vine is well represented.
The conditions of the Fayum have changed but little, as far as we
have any authentic history, since the time Lake Moeris disappeared to.
give place to an agricultural community. For over three thousand:i
years the province has been cultivated and the people have enj ..Ki
more of peace and prosperity than have the farmers in the valley.. of...
the Nile. The ruins of ancient Crocodilopolis lie to the south andi
west of the present capital, and to the east on the edge of the.desertl
pyramids and ruins of immense temples are found.
In returning to Cairo the day was clear, and the entire panoran oI::
desert and cultivated land was spread out as the train sped aloii.
Farmers were out in the fields, some plowing with their curious wood .''
plows, others digging with the hoe, and others clearing the land or
cleaning small ditches. Here and there steam plows belonging to
some larger plantation took the place of the more primitive natit :,.
implements. Drainage work was in progress in places, and occasion

U. S. Dept of Agr Bul 130, Office of Expt. Stations. Irrigaiion Irves',gatic-ns.
















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ally a piece of land was being leveled; crude wooden scrapers drawn
by oxen were alternately filled from the higher places and emptied
into the depressions. Some farmers had finished plowing and were
driving oxen attached to heavy framework drags to break the clods
and smooth the surface of the fields.
The journey from Cairo to Assuan can be made either by rail or by
water. By rail one sees the canals and irrigated fields and the different
methods employed in tilling the soil and cleaning water channels. By
boat the diversion works at the heads of canals, the water-raising devices
and irrigation structures near the river can best be studied. The
journey by water has some advantages over the trip by rail. The
boats have regular stopping places, where the surrounding country can
be studied, and as the valley is in no place more than 9 miles wide, a
considerable portion of the farming land between the river and the
desert can be examined in a few hours.
Leaving Cairo in the morning by rail, Assuan is reached the next
afternoon. The road runs south, on the west side of the river, parallel-
ing the Ibraimia Canal as far as Assiut; it continues then to Nagi
Hamadi, 373 miles from Cairo, where the river is crossed. The
southern terminus of the road is at Chellal, 6 miles south of Assuan.
Probably the most interesting part of the trip, to one making a study
of irrigation and agriculture, is between Cairo and Assiut, a distance
of 240 miles. The broad Ibraimia Canal parallels the railroad for
some distance below Assiut. During the winter it is dry for a short
time, when the channel is hurriedly cleaned. Laborers carrying
baskets, which are filled by means of the hoe, swarm the banks and
bottoms of the canal. The side slopes are formed accurately and
smoothed with that instrument in a way seldom equaled in the United
States. There are no plow marks along the banks and runways for
teams are unnecessary, while the bare feet of the laborers tend to
smooth rather than scar the surface of the ground. The material to
be excavated has been cross-sectioned and each man or company of
men is required to remove a certain volume. (See P1. III.) The
more industrious make the better wages.
The regulating works at Dirut can best be examined by stopping at
the station for a few hours. These are representative of the best
regulators in Egypt. Two large and two small canals begin at this
place. The former are the Bahr Yusef and the Ibraimia canals, while
the latter are the Dalgawi and Dirutieh canals. Running direct from
the Nile and supplying water during the flood is the Saheliyeh Canal.
The masonry works run from the point where this canal enters the
channel above the regulators to the Ibraimia, thence to the Dirutieh,
thence to the Bahr Yusef, and end just beyond the point where the
Dalgawi Canal has its head. The works ai'e substantially built and are
maintained in good condition. One man can operate the gates of any
27752-No. 130-03- 2


of the canals by means of a traveling winch. On the east bank of the
channel, about 500 feet above the entrance of the inlet gates of the
Saheliyeh Canal, is a waste gate which discharges surplus water into a
channel connecting with the Nile. The Dalgawi regulator has two
gates, each nearly 10 feet wide. The Bahr Yusef has five, the Dirutieh
has three, the Ibraimia has seven, and the entrance regulator of the
Saheliyeh Canal has two gates. The wasteway has five gates. The
latter, as well as the regulators of the two large canals, are supplied
with locks which permit the passage of such boats as are employed on
these waterways.
The Ibraimia Canal will henceforth be supplied at all times of the
year from the new headworks at Assiut, which have been built in
conjunction with the reservoir work at Assuan and the diverting dam
at the former place. The latter structures are described elsewhere in
this report.
The farming country becomes narrower as one ascends the river
from Assiut. No perennial irrigation is practiced above Assiut except
on the lands lying near the Nile, which are served by water-raising
devices of various kinds. The Arabian desert breaks off abruptly on
the eastern hank of the river in many places, and the principal areas
of farming lands are found on the western side of the river.
Large sugar plantations are common, and at the principal towns
sugar mills are in operation. Light railways have been built through-
out Egypt wherever demand for transportation facilities warrants the
outlay. These are narrow-gage roads, and the rolling stock is of the
The Sohag Canal, which was probably once a channel of the river,
irrigates a large area between Assiut and the town of Sohag during
the flood of the Nile. In the winter it lies high and dry, while the
adjoining farms are green, as a result of inundation. At Dendera,
farther up the river, where ruins of the celebrated temple bearing the
same name have been found, the agricultural lands showed that a sea-
son of adequate water supply had been enjoyed. The temple was
nearly buried by the crumbling mud bricks of a village which grew
up about it, and has only recently been thoroughly excavated. The
farming lands reach to the base of the temple, and during the flood
season the water almost touches its foundation. The giant temple of
Ammon at Karnak was originally surrounded by a high embankment,
but this has been destroyed in places, so that now during the flood
water stands to a considerable depth around it. The ruins cover an
area 1,300 feet long and 400 feet wide, not counting some of the
smaller and less important structures. The farms extend to the orig-
inal protecting wall of earth. Between Karnak and Luxor can be
seen an escape gate which is opened to permit the water of the basin
to flow back into the Nile as high water recedes. Across the river the


. .. ... .


Colossi of Memnon stand in a cultivated field watered by wells fur-
nished with sakivehs.
From Luxor to Assuan the valley contains but little of interest.
The famous quarries where the Silsileh hills reach the water's edge on
either side give one an idea of the immense quantity of stone which
has been taken out for all kinds of masonry work. A narrow fringe
of palm trees lines the banks of the river in many places, and the area
of the agricultural land is limited on either side.
Assuan, lying on the right bank of the river just below the first
cataract, is the Mecca of the traveler in Upper Egypt. The Ele-
phantine Island, lying opposite the town, in the river; the rough. ster-
ile deserts on either side; the granite points on land, and rocky islands
in the rapid currents of the cataract each add to the interesting fea-
tures in the vicinity of the town. The granite quarries in the desert
to the east and north of Assuan show how that material was taken out
in the early days of Egypt, and at the head of the cataract only 4
miles up the river one can see how through modern engineering appli-
ances the same material is now handled. In less than four years the
engineers of the Egyptian Government have built a dam containing
1,000,000 cubic yards of granite masonry. Machinery has supplanted
slave labor; and where thousands of men were formerly required to
transport large volumes of stone from one place to another the task is
now easily accomplished by employing great derricks, steam engines,
and improved quarry tools.
By the river it is but 4 miles from Assuan to the head of the cata-
ract, where the great dam has been erected. A footpath follows the
Nile, another passes through the desert in a direct line. while the rail-
road runs along a former channel of the river farther to the east.
The dam is seen first if one goes by either footpath, while if the train
is taken the island of Philae is in view as soon as the traveler alights
at Chellal. No one can forget the tirst glimpse of this island and the
temples with which its surface is covered. All other islands in the
vicinity of Philae are high and rocky, while this particular one is flat
and well adapted for the purpose to which it has been dedicated.
Two miles downstream is the dam.
The engineers in charge of the construction of the dam were willing
and anxious to explain the construction work in progress and make
clear the function of the reservoir when completed. Some of the
engineers had been at Assuan from the day the first work commenced.
They enjoyed an ideal climate during the winter, but suffered much
from the continuous heat of the summer. The thermometer ranges
above 1000 F. in the shade between the early spring and late fall
months. It often reaches 1200 and at times 1300 during the summer.
But little relief is afforded at night, as the granite rocks give off the
heat they have absorbed during the day.


Ten thousand workmen were engaged on the construction of the dam
during the winter of 1901-2. These men were poorly paid compared
with the wages of those employed on similar work in the United States.
They furnished their own subsistence and no shelter had been provided
for them.
The best view of the dam is obtained from a position on the left bank
of the river, just downstream of the structure. From this point its
entire length is visible. Over it can be seen the neighboring islands
in the river, beyond which is Philae and its ruined temples. In the
foreground are numerous islets which break the river into many small

The Nile is among the longest rivers in the world, being in this
respect in the same class with the Amazon, the Kongo, and the Missis-
sippi, but in discharge it is much below many rivers having shorter
courses. The following comparison of the discharges of large rivers
shows the relative position occupied by the Nile:

Comparison of di.chargeRf of the Nile, Ga(nges, Irrawraddy, Brahmaputra, and Mississippi

River. Length. Drainage
Maximum. Minimum. Mean.
Cubie fi. Cubicft. Cubic ft.
Miles. per see. per see. per sec. ISquare miles.
Nile (at Assuan)............................ 3,300 459,000 10,000 128,000 1,300,000
Ganges (British India)..................... 1.557 494,000 36,000 141,000 391,000
Irrawaddy (Burma)........................ 2,532 a1,000,000 a84,-000 350,000 150,800
Brahmaputra (British India i............... 1,700 1,800,000 146,000 I 520,000 361,300
Mississippi (at St. Louis) b.................. 4,200 994,000 33,000 126,000 1,226,400

a Estimated. b Head of Missouri to mouth of Mississippi.

The White Nile rises in Lake Victoria, in central Africa, and flows
northerly, emptying into the Mediterranean, 3,300 miles from its
source. From Lake Victoria to Khartum. where it unites with the
Blue Nile, is a distance of 2.100 'miles. The only tributary flowing
into the Nile below the junction of the two main feeders is the Atbara
River. about 190 miles farther north. Both the Atbara and Blue Nile
rise in the Abyssinian Mountains and flow northwesterly. From the
point where the Saubat River joins the White Nile, 2,370 miles from
the Mediterranean, only two tributaries add to its discharge, and for
more than 1,600 miles the river passes through an absolutely barren
country. Even after it enters Egypt the width of the cultivated land
can almost be disregarded in comparison with the broad expanse of
desert on either side.
High water of the White Nile appears during June, and the flood
does not recede until October. It furnishes a more uniform flow to
the irrigators of Nubia and Egypt than any other tributary. It derives

its supply from the heavy rains in the equatorial regions where it has
its source. The high-water s-eason of both the Blue Nile and the Atbara
begins with July and ends with September. These two streams fur-
nish nearly all of the sediment which has built up the valley of the
river in Egoypt and maintained the fertility of the soil. The effect of
the high water from all source-, is felt at Cairo soon after the 1st of
August. but owing to the demand for water in upper Egypt during
the late summer and early fall months extreme high water does not
reach Cairo until toward the end of September, when the hasins have
discharged into the river.
While the Nile varies each year in discharge it is a sinogularly steady
stream, and in this respect is unlike the rivers with which we are
familiar. It has but one high-water season each year, and thi- begins
and ends so regularly that irrigators know when to prepare for the
flood. Although the stream is remarkable in this respect, its varia-
tions in discharge in different years affect agriculture greatly. During
years of low Nile large areas go unirrigated. In average years the
Nile furnishes sufficient water to bring prosl)erity to Egypt. Once
in fifteen or twenty years it is unusually high, when large areas are
devastated by floods. If a sudden rise should occur in the Nile. as so
often happens in many of our Western streams, it would he a great
curiosity to the natives.
The accompanying chart (fig. 1) makes a comparison between the
discharge of the Nile at Assuan and of the Mississippi at St. Louis.
It will be seen that the discharge of the Mississippi is very irregular.
High water may appear at St. Louis at any time between April and
June, and this maximum discharge may range from 250,000 to nearly
1,000,000 cubic feet per second. The maximum discharge of the Nile
varies from 300,000 to 420,0100 cubic feet per second. If the Nile
varied as the Mississippi does at St. Louis. agricultural Egypt
would soon cease to exist, unless the great volumes of water which
would descend at flood times could be stored and the flow of the river
Fig. 2 shows the relation between the discharge of the Nile at
Assuan and of the Missouri at Kansas City for the four years begion-
ning with 1897, giving the maximum, mniimum, and mean yearly
discharges for these four years. Both streams flow through arid
countries. The Nile rises in a region of tropical rains, although a
considerable portion of its supply comes from the Abyssinian Moun-
tains and the ranges of central Africa. The Missouri has its source
in the snow-covered Rockies. It will be noticed that the high-water
period of the Missouri may occur at almost any time between the
middle of April and the 1st of July, while the Nile reaches its maxi-
mum near the 1st of September. The discharge of the two streams
is about the same during January and February and during the first

2 0 ,,,,:,:,Wi,!!! ",'?

2i I

I----o----i------ ------------------------------______ DIAGRA



920,000 ----- ----A ----- MISSISSIPPI AT ST. LOUIS

900,000----------- ----- -------- _


G40.0 ------------ -------- ._ -- L ---

800.000----------- ---- -------- -- ---

780,000 ----------- ---- ---------



,FIG. .-Diagram showing dicarges of the Mississippi at St. Louis and of the Nile at Ass ua
780,000---.-------- ---- ----------- -----J1--- U--_-------------.- -- --.--------
700,I0 ------ ---- ----- -------- -------- .---------------- .- .-- ... -

680.00------ ----- -----.----- _--- ____ -- ---- ---------------- --- ---- ----

620,000- ---- -- -- ------------ --------- -------------------------
640,000----------- ---- ------ ----U-------- -- -jL _------------- .-- ---..-- -- ---

620,000-----_------.------------J ------ .- ----- --------------- ----------..

540,00 ----------- ---- ----.-- ------ ---- ---- ------- ----- ----------

520.000 -
5s0.000 ----_--- _-- _- ---- _, -- ____--- --- -U ------------- ------ -----.-..

460@00----------- ---- ---- ---^ --------l-------_--------------- -_-.- --------

540.000----------- ---- --- --- --------i----- ------ ------- -- -- -- --- ----.

520,000 ---------- ---- --- -- --! ---------IU------------------ ----- -------.-----
500.000----------- ---- -- --- ----------- --- --- ------ -------.---

440.000--- ------- ---- -- -- --------------------- ----- -----------

420,000----------- ---- -- -- -------------- ----- -----------

400.000 ------------- ----------------- .

35.0--------- ---.- -4-- -----------------, -----------

260,000 -.--- -- .- -.I JL -----------L---^------,---- ---------- ----- -
39D.00 In- ..L ..- i--^ ^-- --

320LOOO-- -------- ---- ---- -- ---- ------------ -------- -^- -.- -. .

2M000---------- -. ---1------------- --r------- ^ -- ---

I,6000----- ----- --- ----- --- ^ -- -.
340,0N1- I I P .
3200.000-- -JU U -- -- - -- -- -* -

240 oM ---------


part of August. It will be observed
comparatively uniform, while that

that the discharge of the Nile is
of the Missouri is exceedingly

I C-iI
*4; 2-s a m I -v

- 7^ ^ ^ :: '~^ -~N---~:*'

- ~ / ~~A -- -----~-- -- 2-

-- --- p

curnr r r i a ; 1 .1
9 5 '5; 9 st 5

S> -- -

71' -.
-- .- .

1 <7


--- --- ---
_... ........
_.....__.__ .. ......


_^ 7 _

irregular. The absence of great fuctuation in the discharge of the
Nile can probably be explained by the fact that there are but few

s u g a g S a m a s s a s s p .a E aW g a l I


tributaries to the main stream and no local precipitation in Nubia or
The ancient Egyptians worshipped the Nile and the sun. All bene-
fits came from these two sources. The inscriptions on many of the
temples show the Nile in different phases of its discharge, and many
of the scenes pictured there represent the rulers or priests navigating
the river. Unfortunately, the tourist seldom sees the Nile in flood.
Instead of a gigantic river he sees a sluggish stream of muddy, unin-
viting water. Its channels are filled with many sand bars. Its banks
may be protected by riprapping; they may be rocky or sandy to the
water's edge, or supporting a luxurious growth of wheat, clover, or
beans. As the river falls crops are planted wherever possible to the
water's edge until extreme low-water level is reached. The tourist
observes shadufs and other water-raising devices by thousands, but
unless he travels otherwise than by boat he has but little opportunity
to examine these curious devices for carrying water over the high
banks of the Nile, nor does he see much of the land which is watered
in this way. He often leaves Egypt without understanding why the
Nile should be known as the Father of Rivers and one of the most
remarkable in the world. To an American it looks like the Missouri
below Omaha at low water. The similarity would be even more strik-
ing if the bluffs bordering the Missouri were barren sand hills instead
of being covered with vegetation.
The low-water period of the Nile continues until the middle of July.
The critical season is between the middle of May and the middle of
July. The sun shines from a cloudless sky and the air is filled with
dust. Land not perennially irrigated a is cracked with heat and thor-
oughly sun baked. Both man and beast suffer for water except where
the Nile, the perennial canals, or wells can be easily reached. Even
the branches of the Nile in the delta are practically dry in many places,
the water all being diverted at the barrage or pumped from the chan-
nels of the river below this structure. During the first part of July
all are anxiously awaiting the first appearance of high water. About
the 12th or 15th of August the basins of Upper Egypt begin to receive
water. The canals for perennial irrigation in both Upper and Lower
Egypt are then running bank full and everyone is irrigating the crops
so lately threatened with drought.
About the 1st of September the Nile is a mighty torrent, having
increased from 12,000 cubic feet per second to 400,000 cubic feet per
second or more. Upper Egypt, with the exception of the land peren-
nially irrigated, is a lake dotted with island villages for thirty to forty-
five days. After thirty days have expired people are anxious for signs
of retreating waters and eagerly await reports from Assuan and other
a Lands along deep canals which always carry water are irrigated throughout the
year, hence the terms perennially irrigated," "perennial irrigation," etc.



places. It is believed that if the water stands on the land more than
forty days insects will be plentiful and crops will be partially destroyed.
By prolonged high water the planting season is much delayed and the
harvest extended into the hot spring months, which greatly reduces
the yield. The basins, however, can not be drained until the Nile
begins to fall. During all this time the levees must be watched and
an army of men working without compensation is called out for this
duty. About the 1st of October the flood is generally over and the
basins begin to empty. This is not only a difficult operation in itself,
but the volume of water turned back into the Nile causes high water
on the lower reaches of the river and lengthens the period during
which the banks have to be guarded. In the delta the Nile runs above


FIG. 3.-Spur to prevent erosion of rin r banks.

the level of the surrounding agricultural lands and a breach of one of
the embankments means an immediate overflow of the neighboring
Changes take place in the channel of the Nile during each season of
high water. Often the current will change, and where there had
formerly been a gradual slope and considerable agricultural land
a steep, caving bank will remain. The lowlands and the banks of the
Nile which are farmed each year vary considerably in area from one
season to another. The agricultural land adjacent to the river is
perennially irrigated, and therefore highly productive. In addition,
the Nile banks are lined with buildings and expensive pumping
machinery. To protect the land and improvements the government

must either build a masonry wall or reduce the slope and riprap it. It
is quite common to put spurs in the banks some distance above the
points threatened to throw the current farther out in the stream.
This is often a dangerous expedient, as the current thus deflected may
do considerable damage at other points.
S 3o0.a32 Frt. Fig. 3 shows one of these spurs con-
s'ructed by the government.
Much has been written about the flow
of the Nile, yet it has never been care-
fully measured until recently. Although
308.976 Fee.L Nile gages, now known as "nilometers,"
were established at an early date, the
relation between the gage heights and
the discharge was never determined until
during the last half century. The meas-
urements tirst made, even by persons
qualified for such work, were rough and
) os308.320 F. can be regarded as only approximate.
The use of the current meter has finally
permitted accurate gagings to be made,
and it will doubtless not be long until
enough of these have been taken to
give value to the gage heights already
A _, 30.ern a.e. On many of the rocks along the Nile
in Nubia extreme high-water levels have
been recorded. Such marks were doubt--
s less the earliest gages of the Nile. Dur-
z ing the past few years some old gages
Shave been discovered at Assiut and other
points along the river. The most inter-
S 307.00 Fe i. testing and among the most ancient of
--- the gages are on the island of Philae.
FiG. 4.-Nilometer on the Elphantine The two which can be seen to-day are on
Island. the west side of the island. They con-
sist of a narrow stairway leading by a short subterranean passage
from the surface of the ground on the island to the river. The
gages are placed on the walls of this passageway and are in sections
of 3 or 4 feet each. The ancient gage is graduated in cubits or
pics and kirats. On the Nile gage toward the south end of the island
of Philae there are a number of different scales, the most modern
one being graduated in meters and centimeters, similar to the gage
on Elephantine Island, as shown in the accompanying cut (fig. 4).


Instead of taking the bed of the river as the zero of the scale, it is
referred to mean sea level at Alexandria.' It is impossible, therefore,
to tell the depth of the water by reading the scale. The gage on the
south end of Elephantine Island is of the same character as those on
the island of Philae. The modern gage is carefully constructed, being
inscribed on pieces of white marble. The gages at Philae are the
most reliable, as the channel of the river there is composed of granite,
and from the records of a great many years it is found that the aver-
age heights of the river have varied but little. The gages on the
Lower Nile are of little value in comparison, as the bed of the river
is constantly changing.
By far the most celebrated of the gages on the Lower Nile is the
one on the island of Rhoda. The graduations are on a pillar which
stands in the center of a well, the bottom of which is connected with
the Nile by a passage. This column is of stone, octagonal in cross
section, and the well in which it stands is about 10 feet square. The
kilometer is graduated in pics and kirats.
At the present time the irrigation engineers depend for their first
news regarding the stage of the Nile on telegraphic reports from
Khartum. The people, however, look to Assuan for their informa-
tion and are scarcely satisfied until reports are received from that
place. From approximate gagings made of the Nile at Assuan the
writer has prepared a rating table, from which the yearly discharges
of the river have been computed, as shown in figs. 2 and 3. These
diagrams are trustworthy only in so far as the gagings are assumed
to be correct.
The English engineers have established gauges at a number of points
along the Nile above Assuan, among which are those at Khartum, Ber-
ber, Wady Halfa, and Lake Victoria. From the reports received from
these gaging stations the engineers know approximately what kind of
a flood to expect each year, and the irrigator is advised accordingly.


There are three agricultural seasons in Egypt. The land not receiv-
ing perennial irrigation can take advantage of but one. This begins
as early as the middle of October and ends with March. The crops
grown then under the basin system are sown immediately after the
subsidence of the flood, hence the time of planting depends upon when
the fields become dry enough for the seed (Pl. IV). The lands in
southern Egypt are generally ready for the seed about the beginning
of November. In the Delta crops are often planted as late as the 20th
of December. Wheat is the principal winter crop, although clover,
a In the same manner the height of a dam or other structure is usually given by
referring to the actual elevation of its base and top above sea level.


barley, beans, and many other products are quite commonly ra
The ground is seldom plowed before the wheat is planted....
seed is scattered over the still moist soil by hand, and it is ef
tramped into the ground by the.cattle or pressed in with a primiti
wooden roller. Sometimes the ground is beaten with a piece of
and the grain actually driven into it. The harvest in extreme u..
Egypt begins in February and is in progress down the river until
middle of April. In upper Egypt the winter harvest is the
important of the year because a large part of the land there dep
wholly upon the ancient system of flood irrigation.
The summer crops are grown between April and August (PI.:
However, a great many crops are planted in April and May. w
are not harvested until the following fall or winter. Among te
cotton, sugar cane, and rice, the most valuable crops grown in E
Rice is generally planted in May and is not harvested until the fo~i'
ing November. During exceptionally dry seasons a different vari e
which ripens in from seventy to one hundred days, is planted q
late in the summer. Owing to the short time required for its grow-
it is known as sebani rice, meaning seventy-day rice. Cotton is so0
in April and picked in November or December. Sugar cane is planted
about the same time, and harvested in the following January S4
The third season has a length of about eighty days, running from
August to October and sometimes until November. During this timee:
considerable sorghum is raised, the stalks of which the natives eait.
Corn is the chief crop grown, and is second only to wheat among
Egyptian cereals in yield. It is probably the most valuable crop to
the poorer classes. As soon as it ripens it is cut or pulled up by th
roots and piled on the levees, where the stalks dry thoroughly an:d.:
where the corn is husked. The corn on the ears is then piled on'th.:e:
ground where the earth is firm and the grain is beaten from the eo6b.
by heavy sticks in the hands of the farmers. (Pl. VI, fig. 1.) The.
corn is next ground or crushed and bread is made directly from it, or
it is mixed with bean flour before being prepared for food. W
is thrashed by a method almost as crude. A sledge furnished with.
rollers carrying metal disks is pulled by oxen, which travel around
stack of wheat until the straw is thoroughly chopped and the graingj
separated from it. (P1. VI, fig. 2.) The whole mass is then tosse
the air and the wind blows away the lighter material while the
falls to the ground. This latter process is very tedious, as the
has to be handled many times before the grain is all separated W::
HI~.... ::EE

U. S. Dept of Agr Bul 130 Office of Expt Stations



Irrigatiorn Irvestgao ;rs




U. S Dept of Agr Bul 130 Office of Expt Stat;ons. Iirigatior Irestigations








U. S. Dept. of Agr., Bul. 130, Office of Expt. Stations. Irrigation Investigations.







\ No-. II

",In e" ,r .. \ ^' ...., \ \

.I .1 N."
,,,, \ ,

i l \ ,, '

',\ \',. '.. \r" ., .4 ,"..
-- 1., Nu .,

S\A \i
\ I l .7



The term village" as used in Egypt refers generally to an area
of land surrounding and including a town. The farmers have their
dwellings in the towns. In the portions of Egypt subject to inunda-
tion they are obliged to retreat to the towns during high water. A
frontage on the river or other source of water supply is always desir-
able and these channels are generally boundary lines of farms, the
dimensions of which are as unusual as the tools used in cultivating the
ground. To enable the greatest number to enjoy the advantages of a
water front the width dimension of the farm usually lies along the
river or canal. Where water channels do not exist it has become the
custom to establish a few lines by permanent monuments. These lines
then become the end boundaries of the farm. When a small area is
sold its length is the same as that of the original tract and its width is
laid off along the lines fixed by permanent monuments. As the area
owned or cultivated by each fellah is small, their farms are long and
narrow. A square piece of land containing the same area could be
worked to much greater advantage.
The accompanying map (Pl. VII) shows the subdivisions of the farm-
ing lands of the village of Talbia, near Cairo. The holdings are small
in the neighborhood of this village and the land is quite productive.
The areas of ten farms, selected more or less at random, ranged from
0.02 to 1.04 acres.
Any small district throughout which the productiveness aind there-
fore the rate of taxation is unusually uniform is known as a hod. The
farms of each hod are numbered independently. The official records
therefore may refer to farm No. 10, hod No. c0, of the village of Talbia.
The maps compiled from government surveys show the farms and
hods with their numbers, permitting any particular farm to be identi-
fied. Fences are not provided along farm boundaries, as they would
occupy too much land.
In the surveys for the finance ministry, villages are mapped inde-
pendently. It is almost impossible to make up from these separate
surveys a general map showing a number of villages, as the boundaries
of the villages are irregular and discrepancies always occur in approx-
imate work of this kind. A survey of the boundary between two
villages defined by a canal or other water course may be made during
the season of high water. At the time it may be impossible to locate
the water channel accurately on the map. If the adjoining village be
surveyed during low water, it is easy to see that maps made from the
surveys would not fit when applied to each other. Outside of these
surveys, the Government possesses little information regarding the
topography of the country.
Under the French occupation some general surveys were made, but
no monuments were established. The English engineers are making


a survey of Egypt and are establishing monuments in some cases. It
is doubtful whether these will have any great permanent value as they
are not tied to guide meridians or standard parallels. The lack of
monuments in the surveys of the villages makes it necessary for the
farmers in the districts inundated to resurvey their lands after each
subsidence of the water. A few permanent monuments may always
be found in the villages and from these the rest of the land is laid out.
The work is repeated until a majority are satisfied that the land has
been properly measured. It would cost the farmer only 5 or 10
cents per stone to establish permanent monuments at the corners of
his farm, but so fixed has become the custom of remeasuring the land
each year that it is preferred to a more convenient system.
English engineers in the survey department are handicapped not
only by their inability to secure the best kind of assistance in the field,
but by existing surveys recognized by the native farmer. His ances-
tors measured land to their satisfaction, and he is content to follow
their example, not only in the surveys but in the computation of field



nD A/ C

FIG. 5.--Diagram -howing inaccuracy of land measurements.

notes. The Egyptian has a special formula for computing the area of
land to which he adheres with a steadfastness which would be praise-
worthy in a better cause. For instance, when a triangular piece of
ground is to be surveyed, only the lengths of the sides are taken. To
compute the area the lengths of two adjacent sides are added, the sum
is divided by 2, and this quotient is multiplied by the length of the
remaining side divided by 2. If the figure happens to be a quadri-
lateral, the two opposite sides are added together and divided by 2
and the quotient is multiplied by the two remaining sides added
together and divided by 2. Putting the formula in.figures and refer-
ring to the accompanying diagram, the inaccuracy of the method may
be plainly seen (fig.5).

Sabfbc ac
Area of triangle =- 2 2

ab+cd ac+bd
Area of quadrilateral 2 x 2

. ..

The formula for the area of a triangle never gives accurate results.
The formula for a quadrilateral is correct only when the figure is a
A few years ago an investigation was made to determine the average
size of the land holdings in Egypt. At the same time considerable
information was gathered regarding the number of farms and as to
whether the owners were natives or foreigners. It was found that
foreigners owned 5,139 farms, having a total area of 233,838 acres.
The average size of these farms was therefore 45.87 acres. There
were 22,699 farms owned by natives who, having considerable influ-
ence, had secured titles to large areas under the conditions prevail-
ing prior to the occupation of the English. These people held
1,420,187 acres, the average size of the holdings .being 62.59 acres.
There were 502,S10 farms belonging to the peasantry. They owned
2,752,500 acres, making the average size of their holdings 5.47 acres.
The total number of farms in Egypt was 53Q-,548. The total culti-
vated area exclusive of state lands and the area administered by the
Daira Sanieh was 4,406.525 acres. The average size of an Egyptian
farm was therefore 8.3 acres. The total population of Egypt at the
time the census was taken was 6,754,050, so that one person in twelve
was a landowner, while 80 per cent of the landholders owned less than
10 acres each.

The cost of raising different crops, as well as the yield of the same,
varies greatly throughout Egypt. Crops grown in the winter on
lands employing the basin system of irrigation can be matured much
cheaper than those grown under perennial irrigation where water must
be lifted. In the best agricultural districts of Upper Egypt sugar
cane-is the most valuable crop. In preparing the ground for seed and
sowing the same an outlay of about $7 per acre must be met. The
seed costs from $10) to $12 per acre, irrigation about -10, cultivating
and harvesting $14, making the total cost per acre amount to 8$4 or
$45 per acre. If the land requires fertilizers the cost of these may
make the yearly expense $2.50 higher. The yield of sugar cane aver-
ages about 32 tons per acre, which is worth $128. The net profit from
an acre of sugar cane is, therefore, between $80 and $S5 per acre. If
the land is rented the tenant probably pays from one-third to one-half
of the crop to the owner. The landowner pays between $5 and $10 in
taxes each year on such land. The cost of raising cotton in Upper
Egypt is about one-third as much as for raising sugar cane, while the
net profit approximates $50 per acre, or about five-eighths as much.
The cost of raising other crops runs from $1 to 86 per acre in Upper
Egypt. The principal crops grown there in order of their importance
are sugar cane, cotton, wheat, Indian corn, millet, vegetables, beans,


and clover. Some fruit is grown, especially in the Faum, w
oranges, lemons, limes, olives, etc., are quite common.
In the southern half of the delta sugar cane is grown principi.
for eating purposes. The cost of raising the cane there is about t
same as in Upper Egypt, but the net profit derived from the ground
is about twice as great. Fruits of different kinds are among the most A
profitable crops of this portion of Egypt. The date is grown exten-iI
sively, and a special tax is levied on this fruit. When a tree is t
down another must be planted in its place. The government revenuli
from an acre devoted to raising dates runs from $10 to $45 per acr
The cost of cultivating the ground approximates $50 per acre, wh|
the net profit is about $150 per acre. Considerable land is devote
to the growing of different vegetables. The cost of raising vegetab is
averages about $15 per acre, while the net profit from the ground :
about 855 per acre.
While some cotton is grown in the northern half of the delta, this'ii
portion of Egypt must be regarded as essentially a rice district. The i'
net profit from the cotton fields is about $25 per acre, while rice pays
from $6 to $18 per acre only. Much of the rice grown in this portion
of Egypt is planted on ground which is being reclaimed and put...
condition for the production of more valuable crops. Indian co
barley, wheat, and clover are the other crops grown in the north
portion of the delta. Some fruit is produced in the vicinity of th
towns and villages.

Originally all of the agricultural lands along the Nile, except
narrow strip, depended upon the flood of the river for irrigation. But
one crop could be grown each year, and this in the winter time. Dur-
ing the remainder of the year the land remained fallow. Most of thej.:,:
large canals were built during the twelfth dynasty (2200-1600 B. C.).;:'
Levees were built along the Nile and the farming land was divided into
basins, which were filled with water from canals when the river rose.
to a marked place at the head of the El Khalig Canal at Cairo.: Aiisl
soon as this height was reached word was sent throughout E~ ;
the temporary earthen embankments at the heads of the canals Were
then broken, and the water ran to the basins. If the Nile failed
rise sufficiently high to furnish water for the basins, consider
suffering resulted. If the river was too high, embankments wo
break, levees would be washed away, and widespread desolation w
result. It was not only necessary to fill the basins with water, bu.....
water had to be red with silt from the mountains and plains of A::
sinia. If the land failed to receive the deposit of red mud, thel'.
would be reduced. Emptying the basins was even more difficult:th:n
filling them. The lower basins had to be emptied first, dr, if igood.l

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U. S Deot. of Agr., Bul '3? O'f ce rr E o' S'atinr.s. Irr'g3'"n In Ies ';a'-7 ns.

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regulators were provided between them, the water from all could be
run at once. If one of the embankments of an upper basin broke, it
meant devastation to everything below. The basins could not be
emptied until the Nile began to recede, and there was nearly as much
danger in having the flood continue too long as in not having a suffi
cient supply of water. This system has survived to the present time.
While the basins first laid out were crude, they have developed after
many years of experience into well-regulated systems. Expensive
regulators have been constructed and canals have been made large
enough to carry water to supply the land they were intended to serve.
The escapes into the Nile have been perfected. The land near the
Nile is above the level of the adjoining farms (tig. 6). For this reason
it is difficult to fill the basins near the Nile embankments. The grade
of the Nile varies from one-half to one-third of a foot per mile.
Owing to this slight fall the canals have to be quite large, because
their grade must be less than that of the river. Even under the most
favorable conditions they can not gain more than :a small fraction of a

FEET 5000 10,000 15,000 20,000 25,000 30,000 35,000 40,000 45,000 50,000


FIG. 6.-Typical cross section of the Nile Valley.

foot per mile over the river. When a canal reaches the edge of the
desert, or. in other words, covers all of the arable land except the Nile
berm, it follows the desert until a new canal is taken out, when the
first canal siphons under the new one and covers the high land along
the river. The second canal proceeds in the same way and siphons
under the third. By this system canals can be made to serve the
entire area of agricultural land.
P1. VIII shows a portion of the Nile Valley in the province of Keneh
where the river has a general course from east to west. The strip of
irrigated land, bounded by right lines. is in no place over 7 miles wide.
It will be seen that the Rannan Canal heads at the right. on the south
bank of the river, and that the Marashdah Canal siphons under it just
below the point of diversion. The latter canal is on a higher line at
their intersection and waters the elevated lands along the berm of the
Nile for 12 miles below the siphon. The Rannan Canal continues
westerly and soon covers all the land to the border of the desert. Just
27752-No. 130-03- 3


before it reaches the Heu Escape, which was built to empty the basins
above the south side of the river, it divides, one branch serving the
high lands along the desert and the other furnishing water to the
basins near the Nile. The basin boundaries are shown by dotted lines.
The canal and basin system on the north side of the river are also
shown. There are small areas here and there in Upper Egypt which
are irrigated from wells, but the larger part of the land is still flooded
by the Nile and enriched by its sediment, as it has been for thousands
of years past.
But this ancient system of irrigation has one great drawback-but
one crop can be raised each year, while all other conditions, except
the water supply, favor the raising of several crops. Recognizing
this, Mohammed Ali in 1837 began reforms looking to the supplying
of water to crops during the whole year. The great barrage at the
head of the delta was begun in 1843, as a part of the plans for peren-
nial irrigation. The first perennial canals were in the delta and the
Fayum, but the system is being gradually extended to the south, the
country between Cairo and Assiut being in a state of transition, and
the recent great works at Assuan and Assiut being for the purpose of
increasing the area supplied with water throughout the year.
The returns from the soil have been greatly increased by the adop-
tion of perennial irrigation. However, this system is accompanied
with certain drawbacks. Only by the old flood-irrigation system can
the land receive any considerable amount of rich Nile silt, and when
two or three crops per year are taken from the ground the soil deteri-
orates quite rapidly. Artificial fertilizers are necessary, and these.
are expensive in Egypt. The principal supply of fertilizer at present
is from the ruins of old towns and villages. This is simply the Nile
deposit which has been used in times past in the manufacture of brick
for the construction of houses, impregnated with more or less fertiliz-
ing matter derived from the village wastes. Long lines of camels
may be seen carrying this material to the farms. (P1. IX, fig. 1.)
Sometimes it is to be transported 10 or 15 miles or farther, each camel
carrying about 600 pounds, distributed between two wicker panniers
thrown across his back.
As has just been pointed out, there are at the present time two
kinds of canals in Egypt. First, the perennial canals of the delta,
which date from the time of Mohammed Ali; the Ibraimia canal, and
the canals of the Fayum, built like those in the United States, with
the idea of receiving water throughout the year or whenever crops
need irrigation. The water of these canals generally runs below the
level of the irrigated lands. Second, the flood canals, for filling the.
basins in Upper Egypt, which leave the river on a much higher level.
relative to its bed.


In the province of Assuan there are two canals on the left and four
on the right bank of the river. These supply all the basins in that
province during the flood season. The only area watered throughout
the year is a narrow strip bordering the Nile and other water courses
carrying a supply at all times. In the province of Keneh there are 8
canals taking water from the west bank of the river and 13 diverting
water from the east bank. In the province of Girgeh 11 canals divert
water from the left and 5 from the right bank.
Among those on the left bank is the great Sohagia Canal, one of the
oldest water channels in Egypt. It supplies 340,000 acres of land.
At its lower extremity the Yusef Canal begins, being a continu-
ation of the Sohagia. So ancient are these channels that they have
lost much of their resemblance to the canals of to-day and are now con-
sidered natural channels. They are very tortuous, and run at but
slightly higher levels than the Nile. At its head the Sohagia is 230
feet wide on the bottom, 278 feet wide on top, and carries a maxi-
mum of 18 feet of water in depth. Its discharge is about 15,000 cubic
feet per second. The canal is separated by embankments from the
first basins it supplies. In the basins farther north the canal
embankments are omitted. Here the canal is not a boundary line
between basins, but flows through each. The length of the canal is
about 60 miles. Just below its point of diversion from the river an
immense masonry head gate has been erected. It is many times too
large for the volume of water carried by the canal, and it would look
much more in keeping with the surroundings if the canal were two or
three times larger. The head gate contains 214 archways, each of
which is nearly 10 feet wide. The foundation, which rests upon sand
and gravel mixed with Nile mud, is 131 feet wide and 61 feet thick.
The superstructure is of brick, except the corner. and other exposed
parts, which are of stone. The piers are g4 feet thick, and are about
20 feet high from the foundation to the springing line of the arch-
ways. The discharge is regulated by raising or lowering flashboards
by means of a winch carried on a car running along the top of the
structure. The basins filled by the canal are emptied at an escape
not far from Assiut. Until recently they were drained by simply
making a cut in the basin dike, permitting the water to flow back into
the Nile. This was a very dangerous and destructive practice and has
been reformed by the installation of a masonry escape.
In the province of Assiut two canals divert water from the left and
eight from the right bank of the river. On the left bank there are
also six laterals of the Ibraimia Canal. The Yusef Canal is now
supplied by the Ibraimia at the town of Dirut, 54 miles north of Assiut.
The Ibraimia Canal was never supplied with a head gate until recently,
when the construction of the Assiut dam made it necessary that the
discharge of the canal be controlled at Assiut, where immense masonry


regulators and division gates have been put in. At Dirut there is a
wasteway in the canal, through which the surplus water can flow back
into the Nile. Just below the wasteway the division gates are located,
and at this point the Yusef and two.less important canals begin. The
length of the Ibraimia Canal from Dirut to its lower terminus is about
130 miles. It flows almost parallel to the Nile, and in no place is it
over 2 or 3 miles from the river. At Dirut the width of the canal on :
the bottom is about 65 feet, and the slopes of its banks are 2 horizontal .
to 1 vertical. The depth of water in the canal when full is about 30
feet. The water supplied to the Ibraimia Canal at Assiut serves to
irrigate over 1,000.000 acres of land. About 600,000 acres of this is i
still irrigated under the ancient basin system.
The Yusef Canal supplies a number of basins along its course, but
its principal duty is to furnish the Fayum province with water for
perennial irrigation. The cross-section dimensions of this canal are I
very irregular. It averages about 175 feet in width on the bottom and
has a depth of about 20 feet. There are levees on each side, however,
which enable it to carry 30 feet of water at high Nile. During May
and June it carries about 600 cubic feet of water per second. During
high Nile the discharge is about 30,000 cubic feet per second. Dur-
ing low water summer cultivation is prohibited along the canal except
in the Fayum province. The entrance to this province is between two
desert plateaus, and the low gap is closed by a dike which completely
separates the province from the Nile Valley proper. The Yusef Canal
crosses this dike on a masonry structure composed of three arches.
The Fayum province was formerly cultivated as the valley of the Nile
had always been, but perennial irrigation is practiced at the present
time, owing to the increased supply of water furnished by the canal.
At the town of Medinet the canal separates into many smaller ditches,
and a large part of the province is watered by these. About 250,000
acres are cultivated in the province. The slope of the land in the
Fayum is greater than in any other farming district of Egypt. All
the land in the province drains into Lake Kerun, which is 130 feet
below the level of the Mediterranean.
In the province of Minieh three canals divert water from the right
bank of the river. The three canals on the left bank are laterals of
the Ibraimia Canal. These are quite important among the distributing
works of the province. In the province of Benisouef six canals take
water from the left and two from the right bank of the river. There
is one important branch of the Ibraimia Canal in this province. In the
province of Gizeh three canals take water from the left and one from
the right bank of the river. Below Cairo there are many canals (Pls.
X and XXIV). The principal ones are those leaving the Nile at the
barrage and the Ismailia Canal, which diverts water from the river at


U. S. Dept. of Agr., Bul. 130, Office of Exot. Stations.

Irrigation Investigations.

0 I 2 3


4 5











Y ERAS..'..


,, T
c CA-/ T-LBIr/v









The Ismailia Canal deserves special mention because it was con-
structed wholly by contract and in one piece. The Egyptian Govern-
ment entered into an agreement, with the Suez Canal Company to
construct a navigable waterway from the Nile to some point on the
Suez Canal. The canal was not only to be navigable, but was to be
capable of furnishing fresh water to the towns along the main canal and
the branch beginning at Ismailia and running parallel with the Suez
Canal to the town of Suez. In addition, the canal was to supply water
for the irrigation of a considerable area ceded by the government to
the company. The contract stipulated that the canal should be so con-
structed as to contain 8 feet of water in depth during flood season of
the Nile, 6' feet at mean discharge, and 31 feet at low water. The
canal has two head gates, the older one being in the city of Cairo. The
second head gate is about 4- miles north of Cairo, from which point a
branch canal 24 miles long connects with the main channel 54 miles
northeast of Cairo. For some distance the canal runs northeasterly
along the edge of the desert, after which it turns to the east through a
gap in the desert hills and continues to the town of Ismailia. For some
40 miles from Cairo it runs above the level of the surrounding country,
and the water is confined between two parallel embankments. This
has resulted in considerable seepage, which has destroyed large areas
adjoining the canal. Some work has been done toward draining a por-
tion of this country. Just before reaching Ismailia a branch of the
canal takes off to the south and terminates at the town of Suez. In
digging the canal some traces of an ancient channel leading in the same
direction were discovered. Historical accounts of an older canal have
been found. About 600 B. C., King Nekos began the construction of
a navigation channel running between the east arm of the Nile and the
Red Sea, The channel was never finished, although 120,000 natives
employed upon it lost their lives in the undertaking.
The length of the Ismailia Canal from Cairo to Lake Tinisah, near
the town of Ismailia, is about 80 miles. The length of the branch
leading south from Ismailia to Suez is about 53 miles. The bottom
width of the main canal is about 40 feet. The slopes are 3 to 1. The bot-
tom width of the branch canal leading to Suez is only about 25 feet, but
the channel was not well excavated and the width is not uniform. In
places it does not exceed 16 feet. Many important masonry struc-
tures are found throughout the length of the canal. Swing bridges
are numerous, and substantial head gates and regulators are found
wherever the discharge of the canal has to be changed. Owing to the
depth to which the canal has been dug, and the necessity for keeping
it cleaned out so that it will carry sufficient water for navigation dur-
ing low stages of the Nile, large quantities of silt have to be removed
each year. Formerly this deposit frequently amounted to 350,000
cubic yards each season. It has been reduced to about 160,000 cubic


yards by partially closing the head gates of the main canal during
high water and supplying it through the smaller canal already referred
to, diverting water 4- miles north of Cairo. Considerable work is
required each year at the head gate of the supply canal. It is over a
quarter of a mile from the bank of the river. The channel leading to
this head gate fills with back water from the river during high Nile
and immense quantities of mud are deposited.
Many of the canals in the delta are ancient river channels. Those
taking water from the Nile at the barrage are artificial. Among these
latter is the Manufia Canal (frontispiece), which is one of the most
celebrated in Egypt. It furnishes water for the irrigation of nearly
all the land in the delta lying between the two branches of the Nile.
The head gate of the canal is similar in design to the barrage itself.
(PI. XI, fig. 2.) A lock has been provided at the head gate, and the
canal furnishes an important waterway for the internal commerce of
the delta. The canal is from 160 to 175 feet wide on the bottom, and
at high water carries nearly 30 feet of water in depth. Its summer
discharge is nearly 4,o00 cubic feet per second.
The Tewfiki Canal diverts water from the Damietta branch of the
Nile at the eastern extremity of the barrage. It was begun many
years ago, but was not finished until after the occupation by the
English. It furnishes water for a large area lying east of the Dami-
etta branch, and its construction has added greatly to the value of this
region through the introduction of perennial irrigation. The Behera
Canal leaves the Rosetta branch of the Nile at the western extremity
of the barrage. It is about 60 feet wide on the bottom, with slopes of
2 to 1. It runs for a considerable distance along the margin of the
desert, hence receives large volumes of sand which, with the silt
deposited during high Nile, have to be cleaned from the channel each
year. Until recently nearly 1.000,000 cubic yards had to be removed
annually, and, in spite of the enormous amount of work performed,
the canal carried less than 600 cubic feet of water per second. The
Behera Canal is about 25 miles long. 'At its lower extremity the
Katatbeh Canal begins. It has about the same dimensions as the
Behera Canal. It supplies all the smaller canals to the north and
west. The surplus water from the drainage of the land it serves flows
into Lake Mareotis. The Mahmoudia Canal begins 34 miles from the
barrage of the Rosetta branch of the Nile. This canal runs for about
45 miles to the northwest and ends at Alexandria. It supplies fresh
water for that city besides furnishing water for irrigating a large
area. The Mahmoudia Canal has for a long time been supplied with
water by means of immense pumps located at Atfeh. Since the repair
of the barrage the pumps of Katatbeh have been removed to Mex, i
which station keeps down the level of Lake Mareotis.




Nearly all large public works in Egypt have been constructed by the
corvee (See p. 74.) The system was much abused when the English
began their occupation in 1882. As soon as possible some relief was
afforded the corvie by direct appropriations, under which a part of
those employed on public works were paid for their labor at a price
fixed by the government. These appropriations were increased until
in 1889 all work of cleaning canals was paid for. Since that time the
corvee has been called out only for the protection of the Nile levees
during flood season, a period of from sixty to ninety days. While thou-
sands of men are thus compelled to give their time without compensa-
tion, it is for the public benefit, and the length of their service is short,
seldom longer than fifteen or twenty days. But little complaint is now
heard, as the work is necessary and the .service niust he compulsory to
be efficient. The time will doubtless come when this ser-ice will also
be paid for.
The manner in which the native digs or cleans canals is interesting.
His one tool. which resembles a hoe. is illustrated in the accompanying
sketch (fig. 7). The engineers measure the material which is to be
removed, and each man or party
excavates a certain section contain-
ing a known yardage. (PI. III).
Frequently a number of men will
work together, one using a hoe and
the others carrying baskets holding
FIG.. 7.-Hoe u-ed Ih- native farmer.
about half a cubic foot of earth.
The earth is loosened and the baskets tilled by the use of the hoe.
Where dry sand is encountered the hands are used to till these baskets.
Children are often seen carrying the baskets, but the hoe is nearly
always handled by the men. Under this method of excavation canal
sections are made smoother and more regular than under the methods
commonly employed in the United States. Steps of earth are left in
the banks, enabling those carrying material to walk with considerable
ease. On the smaller canals and laterals the earth is often loosened
with the hoe and thrown out by hand. Sometimes it is necessary to
clean these when a foot or more of water is standing in them. in
which case the material, if plastic, can be easily handled. Where the
banks are higher, the earth may be thrown by a man in the bottom of
the ditch to another on the bank, and by him pitched out.
Near Medinet el Fayum a photograph was secured of a number of
natives cleaning a small ditch. (P1. IX. fig. 2.) The soil was a black
loam, thoroughly saturated with water. The men loosened the mate-
rial with their hoes where necessary and removed it by hand. The
material was sufficiently plastic so that each handful retained its form


after being deposited. After a day or so in the sun these become dry .
and hard and are of no value in the bank of the ditch. On an avermgs:
one man can excavate about 3 cubic yards of earth a day if the li!:ii
not too great. For this service he is paid about 15 cents, which f
of the cleaning of a canal at the rate of 5 cents per cubic yard.
is the cheapest method of performing the work under Egyptian
editions. It costs about 15 cents per cubic yard to clean a canal wi
steam dredge, owing to the higher price of labor necessary to run .I:r
machine and to the cost of coal. The large canals are usually c i.
after the water has been drained out and they have dried. When it i
impossible to drain them completely the unpleasant features oft:.:i
work are greatly increased.
.. .. ... ...
..'i .......4 .
As has been before stated, most of the water for irrigation, .J
in that portion of Egypt which still retains the ancient basin syste ai0
flows below the level of the land to be irrigated, the necessary lift'i
varying with the stage of the river. The native machinery for lifJ~tiag
water has been designed to work regardless of this fluctuation. While'I,
none of this machinery is efficient, it serves for the irrigation of slar .i:.
area. The shaduf and the sakiyeh are used when the fluctuation 'i;i
great or where the lift is over 5 or 6 feet. Both are of ancient origin.
They can be applied to almost any lift, are easy to construct, and do ':
not require many repairs.
But little is known regarding the lifting machines used by the ancient i1
Egyptians. Probably the first devices invented by them were much
more primitive and not as efficient as those used to-day. Many of
these machines have become obsolete because it was found that they
did not have as wide a range of application as have the devices noar
generally employed. It may be that the scarcity of the material from..a.
which the lifting devices were built has largely affected the change in..:

The shaduf consists essentially of two vertical supports aboutlt 5i
feet apart connected by a horizontal crosspiece some 5 feet from the.:i
ground, a pole hung on this crosspiece like a well sweep, and a'backet
suspended from this pole. In many places the uprights support
the crosspiece are made of small sheaves of cornstalks stiffened with.: a
coat of Nile mud. Sometimes the mud is used alone. The pole is h in
6 inches beneath this crosspiece, as shown in P1. XII. This pole
not balanced, but is supplied with a counterweight on the shorter end,
which extends away from the water. Suspended from the other endii;
is a long pole to which a bucket is attached. This bucket is usuaIly::
made of leather stiffened near the top by a wooden hoop. Its capacity :::

U S Dept. of Agr Bul. 130, Office of Expt. Stations. Irrigation Investigations.






U. S. Dept. of Agr., Bul, 130, Office of Expt Stations. Irrigation ir,'vestgai-ins








is approximately 2' gallons, or one-third of a cubic foot. The counter-
weight is generally a piece of sun-dried Nile mud held together with
straw, cornstalks, or sugar-cane leaves. The woodwork is generally
rough and the whole structure shows a lack of neatness. The operator
throws his weight on the sweep, the bucket tills, and the counterweight
raises it to the channel into which it is to be poured. The ground
where the water falls is protected from erosion by a matting of vege-
table fiber. A single shaduf can lift water only 5 or 6 feet, but it is the
custom to install them in series of three or four, which work together,
raising the water from 20 to 30 feet. A number of shadufs so oper-
ated need not necessarily be in a line. It is quite common to tind the
lower shaduf 50 or even 100 feet up or down stream from the others,
but it is better to get them as close together as possible, to reduce the
loss by seepage.
A shaduf operated by one person can raise about 3 cubic feet of
water per minute. A man usually works two hours at a time. and
two men relieving each other put in about ten hours a day. They
can, therefore, with one machine, raise 1,8010 cubic feet of water per
day. Assuming that at each irrigation the land is covered to a depth
of 1 inch, a device of this kind would irrigate about half an acre a day.
The following table shows the efficiency of a number of shadufs on
which data were obtained:
Efficiencq of the sitds- ,,a ,e ,ruiter-rtising d&'rice.

Cost of I
Number runningg Area irri- Cost per Ar Cost per
Heihtoflifof sha- chines gated in acre each Discharge fi r ac-re for
Height of lift. dufsn te irrig- per da'. ehli ri
dufseri per day of ten irriga- per day. gatedi eah foot
ser es. h o hour. tion. f lift.
ten hours.

A Acre-hoi,. Amr.x.
2.8 feet .................... 1 : 0. 30 0.21 S1.43 U. ti 0.95s 0.51
3.3 feet .................... 1 .32 .17 1.88 .06 1.21 .57
3.3 feet .................... 1 i 30 .19 1.5b .07 1.48 .41
3.9 feet .................... 1 .30 .19 1.5b .05 1.40 .41
4.2 feet .................... 1 .29 .15 1.93 .05 .91 .46
5.7 feet ................... 1 .30 .1 1.67 .06 1.15 .29
5.8 feet .................... 1 .30 i .12 2.50 .0- 1.13 .43
9.1 feet ........... ........ 1 .35 .12 2.92 .05 1.09 .32
10.4 feet ................... 2 .66 .10 : 6. Go .03 1.01 .63
15.8 feet ................... 2 .65 .10 6.50 .03 .96 .41
19.3 feet ................... 2 .60 .09 6.67 .03 .96 .34
19.4 feet ................... 3 .95 .10 9.50 .03 .81 .49
21.5 feet ................... 3 .86 .08 10.75 .03 1.02 .50
22 feet..................... 3 90 .08 11.25 .03 5 .51
29 feet ..................... 4 1.23 08 15.37 .03 .77 .53
29 feet ..................... 4 1.39 0 17.37 .03 .0 .60


The sakiyeh is as common as the shaduf. It is estimated that there
are 12,000 of them in that part of the delta between the branches of
the Nile. There are probably 50,000 altogether in Egypt. The
machine is constructed as follows: A horizontal wooden wheel about
10 feet in diameter, furnished with cogs projecting about 8 inches from
its circumference, is supported on a vertical shaft, the lower end of


which is pointed and rests on a wooden bearing. The upper end of
this shaft is generally of small diameter and is thrust through a hole
in a horizontal beam 22 or 23 feet long and supported at its ends by
columns of sun-dried bricks or masonry. Sometimes wooden posts
or even two small pieces of wood crossed and tied together are substi-
tuted for these columns. Projecting radially from the horizontal
wheel is an arm to which is hitched the animal furnishing the power.
The teeth on the horizontal wheel engage similar teeth on a- vertical
wheel, the shaft of which passes underground to a second vertical
wheel over the water to be lifted. The details of this wheel and the
earthen jars it carries are shown in the accompanying illustration (Pl.
XIII, fig. 1). Where the lift exceeds half the diameter of the wheel
the jars are attached to a belt which passes around a small wheel in the
water or simply hangs by its own weight. Sometimes the sakiyeh is
built on a masonry foundation. The shaft of the horizontal wheel
then has a stone bearing and the beam supporting the shaft rests on
the masonry walls. While the wooden parts have to he replaced quite
often. the masonry work is practically permanent.
An ox or a buffalo is usually employed to work the machine. Each
animal is relieved every three hours and generally works two periods
per day. Sometimes two animals are driven together. This is common
when a double belt, furnished with jars quite close together, is used,
or where the lift is very high. In the Fayum the sakivehs are often
turned by the current of the canals. In the delta the vertical wheel
carrying the jars is frequently replaced by one having small compart-
ments built in its circumference. The jars ordinarily used on a sakiyeh
weigh about 2; pounds each and hold about half a gallon. A sakiyeh
will raise from 120 to 180 cubic feet of water per hour, depending upon
the height of the lift. The efficiency of the device is reduced by its
lifting the water higher than necessary by about a third of the diameter
of the wheel. It has been estimated that one sakiyeh will do the work
of four shadufs. This is approximate and is doubtless too high.
A number of improvements have been made in these machines
recently and they are now manufactured by British firms and imported
into Egypt. Being constructed of iron, the first cost is often prohibi-
tive, repairs are difficult, and it is not easy to install them where the
sites have been designed for larger sakiyehs.
The cost of operating a sakiyeh, using one animal at a time, is about
$1.50 per acre each irrigation, for lifts not exceeding 12 feet. From
12 to 18 feet the cost will probably reach $2.40 per acre, and from 20
to 3W feet, $3.60 per acre. If the animals used are owned by the irri-
gator, the cost will be considerably reduced. The sakiyeh itself may
cost all the way from $10 to $150, depending upon the location, the
cost of the material of which it is constructed, the price of labor, and
whether or not masonry is used in the walls and foundation. The fol-
lowing table has been prepared from notes taken in the field:


Efficiency of the sakiyeh as a water-raising derice.

Height of lift.

3 feet ....................
5 feet ............... ......
5.50 feet ..................
6 feet .....................
7.75 feet .... .............
8.75 feet .................
10 feet ................ ..
12 50 feet .................
16 feet ...................
19 feet ......................
5 feet ....................

Cost per i
acre each.

of ICost of
animals Cost of Area
working running e irrigated
two or machines in ten
two and a per dayo, I hours.
half hour ten hours.
half hour

I Acre.
2 $0.60 0.74
2 .60 .66
2 .63 .66
2, .58 .78
2 .51 .65
2 .69 .63
2. .60 .64
2 .57 .57
2 .49 .66
3 .82 .47
4 1.03 .49

per day.


Area of Cost per
field irri- acre for
gated each foot
gated. of lift.

Art s.
10.3 O. 27
8.6 .18
8 .17
9.4 .12
7.3 .10
7.6 .12
7 .09
6.1 .08
7.2 .05
5.3 .09
4.S .09


In the delta a number of unusual methods are employed for raising
water from 1 to 4 or 5 feet. One of the most striking of these, and
one the least to be expected in Egypt, is the Archimedean screw.
Around an iron shaft some 14 or 15 feet long is built a screw, made
up of thin pieces of wood so fitted together as to be practically water-
tight. A water-tight wooden cylinder is constructed around the screw.
The diameter of the cylinder is ordinarily about 14 inches, and its
length does not often exceed 8 or 9 feet. The pitch of the screw is
about 1 revolution to 1 diameters. The screw is so attached that it
will not revolve on the shaft. The shaft projects' from both ends of
the cylinder and is supported near its extremities by posts. The
screw inclines 30 degrees or less to the horizon, with its lower end in
the water. To the upper end of the shaft a crank is attached. This
lifting device is shown in the accompanying illustration. (PI. XIV.)
One or two men usually operate a screw, but in rare cases, when the
screw is especially large or the lift considerable, a small engine is
employed. High lifts are practically impossible on account of the
difficulty of supporting a screw of great length. This device is more
efficient than the lifting machines contrived by the natives. One man
can irrigate from 1 to 2 acres a day with this machine, provided the
lift be not over 2 feet. The efficiency of the Archimedean screw is
shown in the following table:

Efficiency of the Archimedean screw as a iater-raising device.

of men Cost of Area Cost per'
Height of lift. working operation irrigated acre each Discharge Are
periods per day of in ten irriga- per day. e
of two ten hours hours. tion. ga

3.3 feet....................
4.5 feet...................
4.6 feet...................
5.1 feet......... ..........
5.9 feet....................


A acres.
S 1.02

$0. 25
.24 i

Sof Cost per
i I acre for
each foot
ed. of lift.

A re-foot. A Aercs.
0.47 14.2 $0.08
.49 10.8 .05
.52 10 .04
.45 6.4 .06
.41 11.7 .04





In the delta a great deal of water is raised by means of an
curious device, known as a natali. Two men operate a buckdetP :
which is attached four cords. These cords are held by the men a.
the bucket is alternately filled and emptied with remarkable dexterityl
PI. XV shows this device in use. But little preliminary construction
is needed before the work of raising water can be commenced. .
channel is generally dug from the water into the bank of the e8
and platforms are made for the men to stand on. Where the wati
poured into the ditch leading to the fields the bank is protected,
the case of shadufs, by a matting .of vegetable fiber. Two. ie it::i:s .
raise about 100 cubic feet of water per hour to a height of 3 or 4
The accompanying table gives some information relative to the.
efficiency of this contrivance:

Efficiency if the ata.i a as a water-raising device.

of men Cost of Area ir- Cost per Area of Cost p i
Height of lift. working operation rigated acreeach Discharge field rri- aereb
periods per day of in ten irriga- per day. eachfo
of two ten hours. hours. tion. ga.ted. .
Acre. Aere-foot. Acres.
0.7 foot .................... 2 0.28 0.94 80.30 0.27 6 a' 1
0.8 foot ................... 2 .30 .98 .31 .26 6
1.0 foot ................... 2 .28 .88 .32 .26 7.2
1.5 feet .................... 2 .30 .66 .45 .21 6.6 "
1.6 feet .................... 2 .30 .51 .60 .21 5.1
1.9 feet .................... 3 .46 .78 .60 .24 5.4
2. 1 feet .................... 2 .31 .65 .48 .20 6.3
2.3 feet .................... 4 .58 .64 .90 .22 5.1 l '
2.7 feet ................... 4 .65 .71 .91 .20 5
2.8 feet .................... 4 .54 .70 .77 .20 4.6


Small pumping plants are becoming common and some expensivit'
and well-equipped pumping stations have been erected in various parX
of Egypt. The design most commonly met with is an 8-inch cen
ugal pump propelled by an 8-horsepower steam engine. Co
usually burned in these engines, although cornstalks and straw ::
substituted for it in Upper Egypt. Coal costs $7 per ton at
dria, the price increasing with the distance from that port.
As early as 1882 there were 2,645 pumps and engines lifting
from the Nile and from canals. The engines had a total horsepo,
of 29,453. Of the plants 2,226 were movable and 419 were stations
The stationary engines had a total horsepower of 9,382, while t-
movable engines had a horsepower of 20,071. Nearly all of thee'
pumping plants were located in the delta, although there were a n
ber between Cairo and Assiut. Above that there were no imovabIl
plants and only 17 stationary engines and pumps. The number hasioi
not increased appreciably since that time, but modern pumps have
ber etw en air an Assut. Abo e t at herewer no ,va ,:,!!!:::::0,0, ::::: ........ .:::::

U. S. Dept. of Agr Bul. 130, Office of Expt. Stations. Irrigarion Investigations.











. _




IW7 -11 ..- -:.-

~ ..
-- -.--Y-U~

~~ ~ICr

'' '


1.. .....

o i *.i gi

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in many cases, been substituted for those originally employed. Pump-
ing plants are frequently seen on scows on the river. (Pl. XIII, fig. 2.)
These go from place to place and furnish water under contract.
Where the lift is not over 8 or 10 feet and where the owner of the
field is a part owner in the plant, steam pumps furnish water at about
$1.90 per acre for each irrigation. If the farmer is not interested in
the plant the cost per acre may run as high as $3.75 or $4 for each irri-
gation. Cotton has to be watered four or five times during the grow-
ing season. Wheat, maize, and all fodder crops are generally twice
irrigated. Figures quoted by engineers as to the cost of pumping
water vary greatly. The outlay for this service depends largely upon
the local practice of the irrigator. Mr. Thorwald L. Smith, agricul-
turist of the Socie6t du B6hera, which controls a considerable area in
the delta, has furnished the following information regarding the char-
acter of the pumps employed by the society, together with their dis-
charge, the quantity and cost of coal consumed. etc. The pumps
employed are either of English or French manufacture. and are not
superior in any way to those made in the United States. A detailed
description of them is therefore unnecessary.

Efficiency of pumping plants owned by the Sociftt

Description of centrifugal pump
and engine.

Iper second

Expense of operation per day of ten

Coal. h
Pounds. Cost.

Lubri- Engineer
cants and and
,sundries. fireman.

Total cost per

Ten Twelve
hours. hours.

20-inch direct-acting compound
condensing Gwynne pump......
20-inch Ruston and Proctor.driven
Sby belt from semiportable com-
pound condensing engine by
same ma kers ...................
18-inch Dumont pump. driven by
belt from a Ruston-Proctor com-
pound condensing portable .....
16-inch Ruston-Proctor pump.
driven by belt from compound
condensing portable by same
makers .................... ...
12-inch Gwynne pump, driven by
belt from single cylinder noni
condensing portable............

Cubic feet.


1.212 $.-15 0. is 51.23 ?6. 3

1.212 1.45 .1S 1.23 6.< -
i.~~~ ~Sr.

17.66 1,212 5.45


772 3.47

6.70 662

.. 13

. 13

1.2- n 5. 13

1.23 4.S6

1.23 4.86


5. 83


a Tests running from 1895-1901: lift. 6.5 feet.

b Coal at %6.94 per ton.


Some tests have been made in both Upper and Lower Egypt to deter-
mine the duty of water. The lack of careful measurements of the
water supplied for irrigation discredits many reports which would
otherwise be valuable. The rated capacity of the pumps is too often
used in computing the volume of water furnished. When gaugings
are made to check the pumps, it is generally found that the discharge
has been overestimated. The water is usually measured on the border


.1 2".^


of the field, so that but little loss occurs between the pump and the
irrigated land. In lower Egypt it has been found that a depth of
water of 2.55 feet is sufficient for the irrigation of cotton. A depth of
4.3 feet is required for rice. The winter crops, which have already
been enumerated, demand from 1.6 to 2 feet. Although the growing
season of sugar cane, the most valuable crop in upper Egypt, covers a
period of nine months, a depth of water of 2.5 feet suffices for its
The following discussion of the duty of water under some of the
pumping plants of the Societd du Behbra, in Lower Egypt, has been
furnished by Mr. Thorwald L. Smith:
The loss through evaporation and absorption varies greatly according to
the following conditions:
(1) Quality of soil: (a) Sandy; (b) medium; (c) heavy.
(2) Time of year: (a) Hot; (b) cold.
(3) Number of days elapsed since last watering.
(4) Distance of field from pump: (a) Water carried in old permanent channel; (b)
carried in temporary channel for that particular crop.
As to the first, we find that in (a) sandy soil (pure alluvial deposits) the quantity
of water required for tach watering is about double that wanted for heavy (c). On
the other hand, such soil cracks less, and, consequently, there is not so much loss,
should the time between two waterings be prolonged, as there is in heavy soil where,
after a long drought in summer, the cracks (unless the land be frequently hoed)
will continue to absorb all the water for some minutes and will conduct it to the sub-
soil, which is salt, where it can be of little use to the surface-feeding crops.
Second. Time of year makes a difference in two ways: First, because in summer a
lot of water is lost by evaporation so soon as it is spread in a thin layer over the
baked land, and second, because in the cooler months the canals are all generally
running full anl consequently all low lands can be irrigated by gravitation and are
more or less water-logged, especially where drainage is bad. In fact, for winter crops
the only time when pumps are used for such lands is when the upper reaches of the
canals have been closed for clearance and the water in the lower reaches falls below
the ground level.
Third. The number of days between each watering for cotton should be an aver-
age of fifteen, but through want of water this is frequently prolonged to thirty or even
more. Naturally from causes mentioned above, i. e., cracking, and from the fact
that evaporation directly and through the plants has been going on continually, the
land takes more water to show any sign on the surface. For the rice crop these last
conditions can not obtain, for water must be changed in rice fields while the crop is
young at least every four days, and when stronger at a maximum of eight days on
good soil. (Where the land is very salt the crop would'suffer very much, if not die,
in an eight-day interval.) On the other hand, as the rice land is continually wet
the absorption at the time of watering is much less, and of course there are no cracks.
However, as the water is on the surface there is great evaporation from sun and wind,
especially so long as the plant is small and does not shade its own roots.
In calculating (theoretically) the amount of water necessary for each watering,
about 3.94 inches in depth would appear to be sufficient. Indeed, in the case of
cotton which is sown on ridges, one might think that the area of the furrows only,
into which the water runs, i. e., about half the total area, would be the figure on
which to base the quantity necessary. But the ridges, being made up entirely of
loose soil, soak up water at once, especially the first watering or after a hoeing, and


carry almost as much as a furrow. I may say at once that the 3.94 inches over the
whole area for cotton, even when the ground is not much cracked, is quite insufficient,
and in a long furrow that quantity would not reach the end. Of course, to equalize
the supply to each plant the field is divided longitudinally into narrow belts and
these belts crossways into short beds. This division is made after the field has
been prepared and ridged up, the original ridges stretching from one end of the
field to the other. Between each belt is a small water channel, which is what I
refer to in 4 (b). In these channels a good deal of water must be wasted. As to
the permanent waterways we calculate a mean loss of 10 per cent for absorption
and evaporation. *

In 1798 and 1799, during the French occupation, Napoleon called
attention to the advisability of constructing dams across the Rosetta
and Damietta branches of the Nile. Perennial irrigation had probably
not occurred to him, but he saw the advantage of being able to turn
the whole discharge of the river down one branch or the other so that
the lands along either might receive the benefit of the entire flow.
The dam would probably not have been built had this been its only
function, but his suggestion may have led Mohammed Ali to intro-
duce perennial irrigation in Lower Egypt.
In 1833 Mohammed Ali favored building a .tone dam across the
Rosetta Branch so that it might be entirely closed. This would raise
the level of the water considerably at the site of the dam and afford a
better supply to the canals taking water from the Damietta Branch,
along which was the larger irrigated area. Before work was begun
he was persuaded to change his plans. It was suggested to him that
in place of building a dam across the Rosetta Branch one be erected
on each branch 6 miles below their point of divergence. The khedive
approved this plan and ordered that the stone he taken from the Pyra-
mids. All protests against this latter scheme were without avail until
Linant Pasha, a government engineer, showed that, as the Pyramids
were built from the bottom to the top, they would have to be dis-
mantled from top to bottom, and that the stone thus procured would
be more expensive than if taken from new quarries opened near Cairo.
Everything seemed now to promise .peedy completion of the dlam.
Workshops were erected and some material for construction had been
delivered on the ground, when Mohammed Ali again changed his
mind and stopped the work. Nothing more was heard of the barrage
project until 1842, when Mougel Bey, a French engineer, was called
to Egypt and his plans, as altered by the khedive so as to include the
fortifications, led to the construction of the barrage as it stands to-day.
The dam was finally completed in 1861 at a cost of $9,000,000, not
counting the services of the corvee. The additional cost of fortifica-
tions, canal head gates, and incidentals made the total outlay about
After this vast expenditure the dam was of no value except as a


highway across the Nile. Only the Rosetta Branch of the barr i
supplied with gates. The additional head produced by closing
caused enough pressure to crack the masonry of the dam. At:.
same time water ran under the structure and a number of sp
appeared below. During the reign of Ismail Pasha nothing was d
toward repairing the barrage. Suggestions that it might be put iw
condition to hold back water for the irrigation of lower Egypt we r
never considered seriously.
The barrage is shown in the accompanying illustrations (Pis.
and XVII). The Rosetta dam has 61 archways, while the Damie
Branch has 71. The height of the archways is 41.82 feet from the it
of the structure to the crown of the arch, or 32.8 feet to the spring
of the arches. The archways are 16.4 feet wide, and the piers sup
ing them are 6.56 feet thick. The original foundation of the dam n
simply a layer of concrete 111 feet wide and nearly 9 feet thick, c
ered by a stone and brick floor 1.64 feet thick. As work on each
section was undertaken, sheet piling was driven to keep the water
quiet while the concrete was being laid. The piers were construct
on this floor. Locks were built at both ends of each dam and at
head gates of the three canals. The flow of water through the slu
ways was to have been regulated by gates of a new design, but th
never proved satisfactory, although a few still remained in the
until 1890. The gates now used close tightly, but a grating, thr
which the water flows at all times, is beneath the sills on which
gates rest.
Since the English have been in control of Egypt repairs to the barrigei
have been going on almost constantly. A new floor was laid, widening!
the foundation 30 feet on the downstream and 78 feet on the upstreamlrr
side. It was thought better to widen rather than deepen the founda-
tion, because the material did not improve with depth. After this
work was completed new gates were put in the dam throughout. .
These were made of wrought iron and provided with rollers, and
slide in cast-iron grooves made fast to the piers. The gates are e
by a traveling winch. One rail for supporting the car carrying I
lifting device was put on the upstream parapet of the dam.
towers were built on the piers to support the second rail. Th
towers, with the gates now employed, are shown in P1. XVII.
Until 1896 the springs on the downstream side of the dam conti
to flow. Some water came through the gratings, but a large vol
flowed under the piers. In 1896 repairs were begun which will dit
less make the barrage an enduring structure. Through holes 5 inche*
in diameter, drilled from top to bottom of the piers and lined witk::i
iron pipes, clay or cement mortar was rammed. It was found in- thi
work that large cavities existed under the foundation, and as maiok.
40 barrels of cement were used for a single pier. The total cost of

.... !:'1 ,.

U. S Dept. of Agr., Bul. 130, Office of Expt. Stations. Irrigation Investigations




,.i .: .:" ;.,':-,; ... ." ,*', -.
"'' ""' ""

S l .' .. *;a ...

- 33 FT.

I -s
(8<; ~




39 FT, 4 IN ----
III FT. 6I. -

S40 Fr. 2 IN.


I II~~~: I



1 1 I I I

jpPiE r y:l l I J I
-^ ------ l|\\


I -7




these repairs amounted to $300,000. Another safeguard has been
added to the barrage. Across each branch of the Nile below the bar-
rage low dams have been built, raising the surface of the water there
and correspondingly reducing the pressure to which the larger works
are subjected.
The Egyptian Government had many times prior to 1882 discussed
the matter of repairing the barrage. At one time a scheme was on
foot whereby it was thought that an expenditure of $6,200.,o00 would
make the structure serviceable. Luckily, the Arabic custom of not
making repairs prevailed in this instance. Another scheme which
received the attention of the government was to pump water into the
canals instead of relying on the barrage at all. This would have
necessitated an expenditure of nearly 83.500,000 for the establishment
of the pumping plant. and an annual outlay of about S1.25i~1,H0) to
keep it in operation. The government actually made a contract with
a company to pump water into one of the canals during low water,
and bound itself to pay at least $8128.00, a year for this service. So
successful, however, were the engineers in repairing the dam that by
1892 the canals heading there were fully supplied. The barrage fur-
nishes water at a much less cost than a pumping plant. and. as the
flow is regulated during the season of high water as well as at other
times, a great reduction is made in the volume of silt which has to
be removed from the canals each year. However, until after the
occupation of the English, labor had but little value, and this item
was probably not taken into consideration.
As early as 1884 the barrage performed some beneficial service for
the irrigators of the delta. The alterations which first put the dam in
working order cost about $2,250.000. One hundred and fifty thousand
dollars are required each year for maintenance and operation. While
the repairs were being carried on, the Tewfiki Canal, taken out at the
eastern end of the Damietta branch of the barrage, was completed.
Many auxiliary canals and ditches were dug and considerable reform
was brought about in the drainage system throughout the delta.

The construction of reservoirs is a new departure on the part of the
Egyptian Government. Storing water at Assuan during the winter
for the benefit of the irrigator during the months of scarcity will
necessitate changes in the irrigation systems now existing if the sup-
ply thus made available is to be distributed to the best advantage.
The water supply afforded by the Nile is such that storage works can
be extended almost indefinitely, or until all of the arable land of Egypt
is served by perennial irrigation.
The total area of Egypt proper, embracing the great Lybian Desert,
27752-No. 130-03 -4


which contains five oases and a large part of the Sinai Peninsula, is
about 390,000 square miles. Of this less than 3 per cent, or about
6,000,000 acres, can ever be cultivated. The accompanying map (PI.
XVIII) enables a comparison to be made of the Nile'Valley with that
of the Platte River. It will be noticed that the mouths of the Platte
and the Damietta branch of the Nile are coincident. The two rivers
cross the north boundary of Colorado near the same point, and Denver
and Assuan lie only a few miles apart. Egypt proper, therefore, has
about the same length as the Platte Valley from Denver to the Mis-
souri River. The width of the Platte Valley in Nebraska is about the
same as that of the Nile from Assuan to Cairo. Only 5,145,000 acres
are now cultivated in the valley of the Nile. A similar area of agri-
cultural land in Nebraska would have produced in 1900 crops having
a total value of about $26,000,000. The farming lands of Egypt pay
more than this in taxes each year. Nebraska received in 1900 a little
over $6,000,000 from all its sources of revenue. Egypt received about
$60,000,000. Nebraska has no bonded indebtedness and but a small
floating debt. Egypt has a complication of financial troubles, owing
in the aggregate $516,000,(00, or $100 for each acre of agricultural
But little arable land in Upper Egypt remains. unreclaimed, and the
area enjoying perennial irrigation can not be extended until reservoirs
are provided to store the water which is needed in May and June.
With the growth of the reservoir system basin irrigation will disap-
pear. There are now 120 of these basins in Upper Egypt, varying -in
size from 500 to 35,000 acres. Each year many of these basins fail to
receive the volume of water needed and the yield of the crops is cor-
respondingly reduced. Taxes on such land have to be remitted, entail-
ing a loss to the treasury of $220,000 annually. Although the basin
system has been greatly improved during the past twenty years, yet
so evident are the advantages of perennial irrigation that the demand ,
for reservoirs has been growing. In Lower Egypt 1,300,000 acres can
be reclaimed when water for irrigation is made available. According
to a rough determination of the duty of water, made by engineers, it
will require 33,000 cubic feet per second, or 75,400 acre-feet per day,
to irrigate this land.
The mean discharge of the Nile for January is about 140,000 acre-
feet per day. For February it is about 104,000, and for March it is
73,0.10 acre-feet per day, in this month falling below the volume which
will be needed when all the irrigable land in Egypt is brought under
cultivation. In April and June the mean discharge per day is about
51,000 acre-feet. In May it falls as low as 44,500 acre-feet per day.
The mean discharge in acre-feet per day for July is 182,000. While
some shortage may occur very early in this month, yet it is not one of

the critical months. During the remainder of the year the river always
furnishes more water than is needed.
Mean discharge of the Nile, 1873-1892.

Month. Acre-feet. Month. Acre-feet.

January............................... 4,192, 650 August ......... .................... 17,684, 568
February ............................. 3,115, 728 September ................. ......... 20,620,106
March ................................ 2,210, 858 October .............................. 19,650,906
April ................................. 1,538,460 November .......................... 9,329,7C0
May.................................. 1,335,114 December........................... 5,899,014
June................................. 1,538,460
July ............................... 5,484,600 Total ............................ 92,601,224

The reservoir system would, during average years, have to supply
126,000 acre-feet in March, 799,000 acre-feet in April, 1,002,000 acre-
feet in May, 799,000 acre-feet in June, and probably 120,000 acre-feet
during the first few days of July. The reservoirs would have to store
a total volume of 2,852,000 acre-feet in order to furnish water for the
irrigation of this land. Even in low-water years the Nile supplies
plenty of water to fill a reservoir system of much larger capacity. If
the reservoir system could be made large enough to maintain a uniform
flow in the river throughout the year, it would at all times discharge
about 257,230 acre-feet per day, or about 130,000 cubic feet per second.
The Nile furnishes an average volume of 92,600,000 acre-feet annually.
Disregarding losses in storage and transit, it is estimated that 27,521,000
acre-feet of water would irrigate all of the agricultural land. Under
this assumption the land would be covered to a depth of 4.27 feet.
This would leave 65,200,000 acre-feet of water unused when Egypt
was fully supplied. It will be seen that the building of the A.ssuan
reservoir, with an estimated capacity of 863,400 acre-feet, is only the
first step in the construction of storage works. The Wady Ryan site
alone could probably store about 3,000,000 acre-feet, enough water to
supply Egypt, but it could be used only in Lower Egypt; but the nat-
ural flow of the Nile furnishes more water than is needed for Upper
Egypt. If this site were improved, the Assuan reservoir would not
be needed; hence, it will very likely be the policy of the government
to build a number of storage works similar to the Assuan reservoir
farther up the river. That the expense of maintaining these and the
difficulty of controlling the discharge of water from them will be much
greater than for one large reservoir, can not be doubted.
If reservoirs are constructed farther up the Nile, they must be
farther from Egyptian territory, and consequently more difficult to
control. Much discussion has occurred as to the feasibility of utilizing
lakes Victoria and Albert in central Africa as- reservoirs. But little
has been done toward making surveys in that locality and no figures
are available as to the cost of converting the lakes into storage works.


The engineers of the Egyptian Government have realized for a loaig:
time that it would be necessary to store some of the Nile water before:li
Upper Egypt could receive the benefits of perennial irrigation or S:i
large area of Lower Egypt be reclaimed. For ten years before work
was undertaken toward building the reservoir preliminary surveys
were made and many reservoir sites were discussed. Investigatorsi,
resorted to ancient history and brought forth all the known facts::
regarding Lake Moeris, which occupied part of the basin now known i
as the Fayum province. One American engineer, who had studied lj
this subject and made some surveys, held that the Wady Ryan was
formerly Lake Moeris. Whether or not this be true does Pot matter; ;
at this time. To-day it is the only practicable reservoir site between a:
the Mediterranean and Assuan. (See P1. XIX.)
Early in 1894. after considerable discussion as to how reservoir con-
struction should be carried on and what sites should be utilized, a
technical commission was appointed. This commission consisted of
Sir Benjamin Baker, an Englishman; Auguste Boule, a Frenchmann,,:i;
and Giacomo Torricelli, an Italian. They left Cairo February 26, .,
and returned March 23, having examined all the sites in less than a%!"
month. The Wady Ryan and a number of Nile valley reservoirs were :.
discussed, the majority of the commission finally agreeing upon the '
Assuan site.
The Nile, from the town of Assuan to the dam site, is broken into
many irregular channels. The bed and banks of the river are largely i
composed of granite. The first cataract of the Nile begins where the I
water first encounters the granite. Engineers agreed that the dam
should be built in this locality, but as to its exact line there was a:
great deal of discussion. Mr. Willcocks recommended that it be of
irregular alignment, running from one island to another, where hisi
studies indicated that the granite was solid, thus affording a godd||
foundation; but the dam as finally built is straight, and crosses tt':
river where rapids first appear. It was originally planned to maOi'
the dam 100 feet high, but when it was found that a dam of this
height would cause the submersion of the temples on the island of Phil a:
it was determined, in view of the protests of those interested in thejr
preservation of these ruins, to reduce the height 30 feet, although i
is possible that it may still be raised to 100 feet. This would give the':i
reservoir a storage capacity two or three times greater than it now.:
has, while the ratio between the cost of the work and the volume oCit
water impounded would be greatly reduced. (Pls. XX and XXI.).
The dam is 70 feet high, 6,400 feet long, 23 feet wide on top, and:i
82 feet wide on the bottom at the deepest part. It contains approxl-l
mately 1,000,000 cubic yards of masonry. The depth of water at the?

U. S. Dept. of Agr, Bul 130, Office of Expt Stations. Irrigation Ir.estigations.






U. S. Dept ot Agr Bul. 130, Office of Exot Stations Irrigation In.,et; at* -r ; PLATE XIX.


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dam will be 65.6 feet when the reservoir is full. The cross section of
the dam shown herewith (fig. 8) needs but little explanation. The
roadway running along the top of that portion of the dam containing
sluiceways is 16.4 feet wide. A large part of the eastern end of the
dam, containing no sluiceways, is narrower, and the roadway there is

FIG. 8.-Cross section of Assuan dam.

reduced to 9.8 feet. The rubble masonry of the body of the damn is
laid in 4 to 1 cement mortar, and the downstream slope is faced with
squared rubble laid in the same mortar and pointed in 2 to 1 cement
mortar. The upstream slope, being submerged a large part of the
year, is faced with squared rubble laid in 2 to 1 cement mortar and
pointed in the same. The batir of the lower slope of the dam is 1 to 1i.


Buttresses 3.75 feet thick and 26 feet wide are located between each
set of 10 sluiceways, or about 240 feet apart. The buttresses were
added rather for the sake of appearance than to increase the strength
of the wall. The four locks at the western end of the dam are each
260 feet. long and 31 feet wide. They will enable small boats to pass
at nearly any time during the year.



Fir. 9.--letails of apparatus for raising gates. As-uan dam

There are 1,8 sluiceways through the dam. Of these 65 have been
placed with their sills practically on a level with the bed of the river.
Forty of these low sluiceways are lined with cast iron (Pl. XXII, fig. 1),
all others being lined with ashlar masonry. The cast iron is not con-
sidered as durable as the granite, but by employing it the work was
much hastened, so that the sluiceways commenced at the end of one

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