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One of Cecil Rhodes' central interests was ancient Egypt and the falcon god worshipped there. One of Cecil Rhodes' central interests was ancient Egypt and the falcon god worshipped there. One of Cecil Rhodes' central interests was ancient Egypt and the falcon god worshipped there.
One of Cecil Rhodes' central interests was ancient Egypt and the falcon god worshipped there. One of Cecil Rhodes' central interests was ancient Egypt and the falcon god worshipped there.
One of Cecil Rhodes' central interests was ancient Egypt and the falcon god worshipped there. One of Cecil Rhodes' central interests was ancient Egypt and the falcon god worshipped there.

In his biography on Rhodes, his secretary, Philip Jourdan, writes: `Egypt was a most interesting country to him. He loved to visit the old temples, some of them built 6,000 years ago. There was a solidity and greatness about them that appealed to him. Whilst going over the rounds of these temples he always seemed serious and in deep thought. His voice seemed to have another tone and was most impressive. He loved to discuss Egyptian history and there were very few of the Egyptian rulers whose lives he had not studied. Of some of them he spoke with the highest admiration, amounting sometimes almost to reverence.'

Evidence of Rhodes' fascination with Egypt are the more than 50 books on the subject in his private library at his Groote Schuur residence. And on the wall right next to his bed there hung a triptych of three framed photographs: two of the Egyptian falcon god, and in between them, a picture of the Zimbabwe bird (see above). Also in his bedroom was one of the original soapstone birds (see below) found at Great Zimbabwe and carved wooden copies of this bird adorn the staircases throughout the house.

There was no doubt in Rhodes' mind that the Zimbabwe ruins were linked with ancient Egypt - a view that was expounded in a number of books during Rhodes' lifetime. This notion of a Zimbabwe/Egyptian link is in contrast to the current view that Great Zimbabwe was built by blacks. Consequently, when the African National Congress recently came to power in South Africa, the triptych of photographs that had been situated next to Rhodes' bed for the previous 90 years were separated and hung in different places around the room so as not to offend any African dignitaries who came to visit Groote Schuur. (Rhodes bequeathed his home to the South African nation and it was subsequently the residence of all South Africa's white prime-ministers. It is now a museum.)

In the light of Rhodes' preoccupation with ancient Egypt, there is a certain poetic symmetry in the fact that his mission in life was to extend Anglo-Saxon civilisation from `Cape to Cairo'. If his dream had been fulfilled, it would would have extended the domain of his people from Cape Town up to the country that had been such an inspiration to him.

One of the central tenets of ancient Egyptian belief was the Ka - a guardian and spiritual double which took the form of a falcon and connected the individual to his ancestral realm.

'So utterly incomprehensible was the higher mystic side of Mr Rhodes' character to those among who it was his fate to live and work, that after a few vain efforts to explain his real drift he gave up the task in despair. The real Rhodes dwelt apart in the sanctuary of his imagination, into which the profane were never admitted. But it was in that sphere that he really lived, breathing that mystic and exalted atmosphere which alone sustained his

spiritual life.'

W.T.Stead




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