Egypt: Gods, Men & the River

The scene could have been played in Dante's nethermost pit. The sun—or perhaps it was the moon—whirled like a ball of molten lead above a bil lowing grey dust cloud that made any hour seem torrid twilight. An ear-numbing cacophony of whines, snarls, splashes, roars and curses engulfed the 35,000 laborers who went about their tasks.

Huge chunks of granite, some weighing as much as 15 tons, toppled in a steady, clattering stream into the greasy green water below the crude escarpment. Three red-painted vibrators, as tall as ten-story buildings, sent their...

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