Showing posts with label Western Desert of Egypt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Western Desert of Egypt. Show all posts

Thursday, August 23, 2018

News: White Desert National Park Becomes Egypt’s First Park to Join UNESCO World Heritage List

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) regional office in Cairo said on Saturday that the White Desert National Park in the New Valley governorate would become the first Egyptian geological park to join UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The White Desert became a natural park in 2002, with a total size of around 3010 Km. The park is located 570 km away from south-west of Cairo and 45 km away from the Farafra Oasis.

Professor of Geology at faculty of science in Alexandria University Manal Fawzi stated that the national park was selected along with two tourist sites from Egypt, with Lebanon and Kuwait also submitting requests.

The credential papers are to be submitted to UNESCO in October of this year.

The park contains rare caves, remains of old mummies and carved inscriptions, sand dunes, geological compositions of limestone rocks, rare plants and animals such as the Rhim gazelle, Fennec fox, and Barbary sheep.

Director of the Regional Authority for activation of tourism in the New Valley governorate Khaled Hassan said that Trip Advisor website, specialized at Tourism and Travel affairs, selected the park on top of the best 20 tourist sites worldwide, urging the government to move domestic airplanes from the park to Luxor and Hurghada to increase tourism.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

News: Winding Through Egypt’s White Desert

Beyond the Pharaohs’ tombs, Egypt’s oldest and most alluring secrets lay in its extraordinary geology.

At 3am, Egypt’s desert landscape glows a dazzling, almost luminescent white. Under a full moon, a crazy cluster of chalk outcrops scattered throughout the White Desert National Park reflect the lunar glow so brightly that it seems as if dawn has awoken our Bedouin campsite early. Australia has many magnificent desert vistas, but this surreal vision has no peer.

The desert has its grip on Egyptians. It’s more than just a geographical truth; at least 90 per cent of Egypt is classified as desert. It’s not even due to the insidious creep of the golden Sahara sand, which infiltrates its way to the streets of Cairo. Rather, it’s the solitude of the big open spaces west of the Nile that prove so seductive. Such splendid isolation is a welcome antidote to the cluttered chaos of a heaving city that accommodates up to 30 million people on any working day. Strangely, only an hour away from Cairo’s choked streets, where at least six lanes of traffic are forever trying to squeeze through three lanes of bitumised highway, there is not another person to be seen among the sand and rock stretching to the western horizon.

To enjoy the best taste of this, our 4WD safari veered off the highway onto sand running through the White Desert, about 570km west of Cairo and deep in the belly of the eastern Sahara. Classified as a national park in 2002, this area is startlingly remote. 

Covering about 3000 square kilometres and located 45 kilometres north of the 2000-person oasis town of Farafra, the national park is at the eastern fringe of a desert that covers 2.8 million square kilometres across northern Africa.

It’s easy to be mesmerised by the brilliance of bleached chalk formations that were once an ancient seabed, whose floor is now etched into a clean, white wave pattern by the billowing Sahara sands. The scouring becomes more dramatic as we near our evening camp spot before sunset, encircled by contorted chalk outcrops. Imagination starts to run wild – one looks like a chicken, another like a fox – but these white chalk inselbergs are from the cretaceous period, 60 million years ago, when a shallow sea covered this bedrock of limestone. Now, after a long history of erosion, fossilised shells are evident in the windswept chalk beds.

Our guide, 42-year-old Helal Selim of Cairo, recalls when campsites would be dotted every 300 metres through the White Desert – before the revolution that unseated President Mubarak in 2011, which subsequently saw tourism take a catastrophic dive. Now, we are the only overnight campers within eyesight.

Because of the erratic nature of tourist bookings, Helal has commenced other businesses and doesn’t guide often, but says the desert remains his favourite place. 

Similarly, our driver, 38-year-old Maher of Bawiti township, has hosted desert tourism treks for 15 years, but recently started working at a roadhouse to ensure a wage. These are hard times for desert folk, yet our journey still begins and ends with expansive meals in Maher’s modest mud brick home, in the reception room. He is unfailingly polite, hospitable and generous.

This doesn’t mean he won’t drive like a demon across the dunes. To reach our overnight destination, we pass through the Black Desert, its eroded mountains coating golden sand with flecks of volcanic dolerite and ironstone, and the Crystal Mountain, with coarse outcrops of crystal tinted in every imaginable colour. Occasional depressions in the landscape sprout outcrops of green. Oases such as Ain Khalfa abound with date palms, while a trough captures water constantly bubbling from a natural spring. More than 100 such artesian fountains are dotted across this region.

The big attraction is the chalk formations and as we wander to explore them at sunset, a feast is prepared over an open fire – ful (Egypt’s famed fava bean stew) and grilled chicken marinated in zaatar, teamed with salads of tabbouleh and feta with tomato and cucumber.

It attracts the interest of desert wildlife. A timid desert fox draws near in the darkness, looking more like an anxious bilby than the snappy European foxes. Our leftover food is left a distance away from the campsite, which the foxes nibble at quietly through the night. Other creatures can also be observed in the vacant expanse – falcons in the sky, a herd of feral camels in the distance.

There is no need for a tent; that would be too restrictive, our guides insist, robbing us of the luxury of such a big night sky. Instead, an elaborate fabric printed with brilliantly coloured geometric swirls is placed as a windbreak beside the Land Cruiser. A vivid quilt of woven rags becomes our groundsheet, and the sand makes a comfortable mattress that absorbs our forms.

We are most fortunate, says Helal, because there is a full moon and no wind. The giant orb sits as a big bright light in the night sky – so bright that moonlight reflecting off the surrounding limestone rouses me long before dawn. For a long time I just sit and stare, amazed to experience complete stillness and peace, and understanding why Egyptians hold this desert so dear to their hearts.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

News, Dakhla Oasis: Seven Mummies of El-Mezawaa Necropolis Restored as Part of Ministry of Antiquties Preservation Initiative

Three of the mummies reveal deliberate desecration. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

A team from the Egypt's Mummies Conservation Project has finished restoring a group of seven mummies in the El-Muzawaa necropolis in Dakhla oasis, completing the first phase of the project, Gharib Sonbol, head of Ancient Egyptian restoration projects at the Ministry of Antiquities, told Ahram Online.

The restoration of Al-Muzawaa necropolis mummies came within the framework of the project, which launched three years ago by the ministry to preserve and maintain all mummies stored in Egyptian storehouses.

Aymen Ashmawi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities sector at the ministry, explains that the project started with the conservation of mummies in the Mostafa Kamel gallery storehouses in Alexandria and at the Alexandria National Museum, as well as those in the Kom Ushim stores in Fayouom.

According to Sonbol, the second phase of the project will begin shortly and will involve the restoration of several more mummies. He explained that during the recently completed work, the team noted that two mummies have "screaming" faces, a term used to describe mummies with open mouths. The hands of a third mummy were bound with rope.

“This is not the typical form of mummification, but it indicates that those people were cursed by the god or the priests during their lifetime,” Sonbol said. He continued that the project offers a great opportunity for restorers to learn more about the death and life of those mummified people.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

New Discovery, Western Desert: New Roman Tombs Discovered in Egypt's Dakhla Oasis

The Funerary Mask & One Of The Discovered Ostraca
Five mud-brick tombs uncovered in Beir Al-Shaghala necropolis in the Western Desert. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

An Egyptian archaeological mission from the Ministry of Antiquities has uncovered five Roman tombs during excavation works carried out in Beir Al-Shaghala site in Dakhla Oasis in Egypt's Western Desert.

Ayma Ashmawi, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Department, explained that the tombs are built in mud brick and have different architectural style.

The first tomb has an entrance leading to a rectangular hall with two burial chambers while the second has a vaulted ceiling and its entrance leads to a burial chamber.

The third tomb is a pyramid-shaped tomb. The mission has succeeded in uncovering its upper part while the lower part is still buried in sand. 

The fourth and fifth tombs share one entrance and each tomb has a separate burial chamber with a vaulted ceiling. Ashmawy pointed out that the mission's excavations in the area will continue.

Bei'r Al-Shaghala Necropolis, Some Of The Clay Pots Discovered,
The Tomb With Vaulted Ceiling & The Tomb With Pyramid Shaped End
Gamal Al-Semestawi, general director of antiquities of the Middle Egypt, said that a number of artifacts were found inside the tombs, including the remains of a funerary mask depicting a human face painted in yellow, a set of pottery vessels of different shapes and sizes, as well as two ostraca, one of which contains hieroglyphic text while the second bears text written in Hieratic.

A clay incense burner and remains of a small sandstone sphinx, 14 centimetres by 12.7 centimetres tall, have also been found within the tombs.

Magdi Ibrahim, director general of Dakhla Oasis and head of the mission, said the mission succeeded in its six previous excavation seasons to discover eight Roman tombs in a good state of conservation and with similar architectural design. They are composed of a rectangular hall and two side chambers with sandstone vaulted ceilings. The hall has a mud brick ceiling.

Al-Shaghala area is located to the west of Mout city almost 3 kilometres from Dakhla Oasis in a mid-point between three other archaeological sites.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Re-Opening, Dakhla Oasis: Openings In The Oasis

Three mudbrick houses and the remains of a villa in the Dakhla Oasis have been opened to the public after restoration. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

In the northwest of the Dakhla Oasis in Egypt’s Western Desert is the mediaeval village of Al-Qasr with its mudbrick buildings, alleys, mosques, Pharaonic temple and seed mill. Its serenity was disturbed earlier this week when Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany along with Al-Wadi Al-Gadid Governor Mohamed Suleiman Al-Zamalout and Netherlands Ambassador Laurens Westhoff and other officials opened three houses and a villa in Al-Qasr to visitors after the completion of conservation work.

El-Enany described the work as “wonderful” and “one of the ministry’s most important achievements”. He said that the Al-Qasr village was one of the most important Islamic settlements in Egypt, not only because of its distinguished architecture but also because it was the meeting point of several trade routes as well as being on a main route for pilgrimage.

The newly inaugurated buildings are in the Rabaa Al-Shihabiya area of the village and include the Beit Al-Qadi, the Beit Al-Qurashi and the Beit Othman. The remains of the fourth-century Villa of Serenus, once a council member in Amheida (ancient Trimithis), were also restored and reopened.

Ahmed Al-Nemr, a member of the Ministry of Antiquities’ Scientific Office for Islamic and Coptic Monuments, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the Serenus Villa had been uncovered in 1979. While surveying the late antique city of Amheida, a team from the Dakhla Oasis Project had discovered the upper part of the Villa’s lavishly decorated walls, he said.

 El-Enany during the opening of Al-Qasr’s restored houses 
The main building, including decorated rooms, was subsequently excavated in 2004 and 2007 by a team from Columbia University in New York directed by Roger S Bagnall. Well-preserved decoration was found in four rooms depicting geometrical patterns as well as figurative scenes. “At the time of their discovery, both the paintings in situ and the collected fragments posed considerable conservation problems,” said Fred Leemhuis of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

He explained that the layer of plaster was very thin and extremely fragile. The best way of conserving this precious building for future generations was by refilling it with sand after extensive documentation, Leemhuis commented. “Because this unique villa would be destroyed by being exposed to the public, a plan was made to build a full-size reconstruction of the main house,” Leemhuis said.

Al-Nemr said that in order to recreate the full splendour of the building a decision had been taken to reconstruct the painted decoration. The project has been financed by a grant from the Embassy of the Netherlands in Cairo and administered by the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo. Soon after archaeologist Nicholas Warner had finished work on the building, a decoration team led by Dorothea Schulz moved in and started reconstructing and recreating the decoration.

In a report in the newsletter of the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo, Schulz wrote that the decoration of the two smaller rooms consisted of an intricate geometrical pattern. The biggest room, the Domed Room, was completely decorated from the floor to the highest point in the dome. There are geometrical “wallpapers” all around the room, the report said, composed of many different patterns.

While the wallpapers are still in situ and could be copied without problems, the dome had collapsed in antiquity and had taken a lot of work to reconstruct from thousands of fragments, the report said. The Serenus Villa replica was inaugurated during the minister of antiquities’ visit as a visitor centre. El-Enany described the reconstruction work as “spectacular and well worth a visit”. “The replica villa is a complete example of how top officials or a family of high social status built and decorated their homes in antiquity,” he said. Photographs and banners showing the detailed work are also on display, as well as photographs of the villa’s original conditiond.... READ MORE.

New discovery, Sakkara: Hawass Announces New Archaeological Discovery in Saqarra

The Egyptian Mission working in the Saqqara antiquities area next to the pyramid of King Teti, the first king of the Sixth Dynasty of the ...