THE CALIPH AL-MAAMUN AND THE PYRAMIDS [FN#153] OF EGYPT
It is told that the Caliph Al-Maamun, son of Harun al-Rashid, when he entered the God-guarded city of Cairo, was minded to pull down the Pyramids, that he might take what was therein; but, when he went about to do this, he could not succeed, albeit his best was done. He expended a mint of money in the attempt, -- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Three Hundred Ninety-eighth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Al-Maamun attempting to pull down the Pyramids, expended his mint of money, but succeeded only in opening up a small tunnel in one of them, where in it is said he found treasure to the exact amount of the monies he had spent in the works, neither more nor less; whereat he marvelled and taking what he found there, desisted from his determination. Now the Pyramids are three, and they are one of the Wonders of the World; nor is there on the face of earth aught like them for height and fashion and mysteries [FN#154]; for they are built of huge rocks, and the builders proceeded by piercing one block of stone and setting therein upright rods of iron [FN#155]; after which they pierced a second block of stone and lowered it upon the first. Then they poured melted lead upon the clamps and set the blocks in geometrical order, till the building was complete. Now the height of each pyramid was an hundred cubits, of the normal measure of the day, and it had four faces, each three hundred cubits long from the base and thence battering upwards to a point. The ancients say that, in the western Pyramid, are thirty chambers of parti-coloured syenite, full of precious gems and treasures galore and rare images and utensils and costly weapons which are anointed with egromantic unguents, so that they may not rust until the day of Resurrection. [FN#156] Therein, also, are vessels of glass which bend and break not, containing various kinds of compound drugs and sympathetic waters. In the second Pyramid are the records of the priests, written on tablets of syenite, to each priest his tablet, whereon are engraved the wonders of his craft and his feats; and on the walls are the human figures like idols, working with their hands at all manner of mechanism and seated on stepped thrones. Moreover, to each Pyramid there is a guardian treasurer who keepeth watch over it and wardeth it, to all eternity, against the ravages of time and the shifts of events; and indeed the marvels of these Pyramids astound all who have sight and insight. Many are the poems that describe them, thou shalt thereby profit no small matter, and among the rest, quoth one of them,
If Kings would see their high emprize preserved, *
Twill be by tongues of monuments they laid:
Seest not the Pyramids? These two endure *
Despite what change Time and Change have made.
And quoth another,
Look on the Pyramids, and hear the twain *
Recount their annals of the long-gone Past:
Could they but speak, high marvels had they told *
Of what Time did to man from first to last.
And quoth a third,
My friend I prithee tell me, neath the sky *
Is aught with Egypts Pyramids can compare?
Buildings which frighten Time, albe what dwells *
On back of earth in fear of Time must fare:
If on their marvels rest my sight no more, *
Yet these I ever shall in memory bear.
And quoth a fourth,
Where is the man who built the Pyramids? *
What was his tribe, what day and where his tomb?
The monuments survive the men who built *
Awhile, till overthrown by touch of Doom.
And men also tell a tale of