Ancient History & Civilisation

Chapter 7

Alexandria

1891

ONLY THE HUGELY IRRITATING FACT that he was seasick prevented Carter from bursting with excitement. My God, he was in Alexandria, Egypt. He steadied himself against the roll of the steamship as he scanned the docks for Percy Newberry.

Carter had just reached the ancient port founded by Alexander the Great, the man responsible for ending the great Egyptian empires. Some said the city was the gateway to Africa; others called it the crossroads of the world. For the seventeen-year-old Carter, Alexandria was simply the place where his life would begin, the life he believed he had been born for.

But first he had to find Percy Newberry.

It was Newberry who had rescued Carter from the tedium of drawing family pets and had sent him to train at the British Museum so he would be prepared for his role as a sketch artist.

Percy had gone ahead of Carter to Egypt and now should have been waiting for him onshore.

Somewhere. But where?

Carter was slender, with a lantern jaw and a whisper of the bushy mustache he would wear for the next four decades. The air was hot like the mouth of a blast furnace, and he could feel the searing heat of the deck burning through the soles of his shoes.

He was dressed for October in England, not October in Egypt. He would have eagerly traded his suit and tie for the dockworkers’ simple white robes. None of them seemed bothered by the heat.

Carter squinted into the pale sunshine, scanning the distant dock for a sign of Newberry. But there was no Englishman among the mélange of half-dressed Moors, Turks, Nubians, and Egyptians. No sign of Newberry’s straw hat.

Where in hell are you, Percy?

Carter studied the skyline and spotted Pompey’s priapic pillar jutting above Alexandria like some ancient Roman practical joke.

He double-checked that he had everything he needed to go ashore. His list was short: sketchbook, notebook, valise.

The ship’s anchors splashed into the Great Harbor like a shotgun blast. Immediately, a locust-like plague of dockworkers clambered up over the side.

Carter barely avoided being knocked over as he made his way to the gangplank being lowered off the edge of the ship. He scuttled down into a waiting boat, where a local man whose rippling shoulders told of years of plying the harbor rowed him ashore.

Carter paid the man and stepped up onto the stone dock. And there stood Percy Newberry, resplendent in his straw boater, smiling broadly.

“Where were you?” Carter dared to complain to his boss and employer. “I’m always prompt and efficient myself.”

Percy Newberry just laughed. “Well, you’d better be, with that attitude of yours. Welcome to Egypt, Carter.”

Howard Carter’s Egyptian adventure was about to begin. Though he didn’t realize it then, a boy had come to find the Boy King.

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