The Atmosphere Is Rank
With Memories Of Waste And Failure.
The scenes that meet the eye intensify
The traveller who lands on Quarantine Island is first
confronted with the debris of the projected Suakin-Berber Railway. Two or
three locomotives that have neither felt the pressure of steam nor tasted
oil for a decade lie rusting in the ruined workshops. Huge piles of
railway material rot, unguarded and neglected, on the shore. Rolling stock
of all kinds - carriages, trucks, vans, and ballast waggons - are strewn or
heaped near the sheds. The Christian cemetery alone shows a decided
progress, and the long lines of white crosses which mark the graves of
British soldiers and sailors who lost their lives in action or by disease
during the various campaigns, no less than the large and newly enclosed
areas to meet future demands, increase the depression of the visitor.
The numerous graves of Greek traders - a study of whose epitaphs may
conveniently refresh a classical education - protest that the climate of
the island is pestilential. The high loopholed walls declare that the
desolate scrub of the mainland is inhabited only by fierce and valiant
savages who love their liberty.
For eleven years all trade had been practically stopped, and the only
merchants remaining were those who carried on an illicit traffic with the
Arabs or, with Eastern apathy, were content to wait for better days.
Being utterly unproductive, Suakin had been wisely starved by the Egyptian
Government, and the gloom of the situation was matched by the poverty
of its inhabitants.
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