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Great Sand Sea and Mountain of the Dead

EGYPT | Saturday, 11 December 2021 | Views [38]

Dunes in Great Sand Sea

Dunes in Great Sand Sea

THIS SECTION OF THE SAHARA is called the Great Sand Sea. It is so imposing that Camyses, a Persian king of the 6th century BCE, had his army allegedly wiped out by a sandstorm on their march to Siwah. Undeterred, our driver Sarraj zipped our 4X4 around the dunes, never letting Siwa get too far from sight. We got some good photos but the dunes didn’t compare in size with those in the Namib Desert or in beauty to those in Egypt’s White Desert. 


             Sarraj getting ready for evening prayers


               Sunset in the Great Sand Sea

We never made it to Siwa Mountain where there supposedly are million-year-old footprints discovered in 2007 but we did stop for the fossilized corals and shells on the exposed Cambrian reef.


                          Fossil shells and Coral

I think we were suckered into the overnight at a desert camp. First, it’s more of a dinner venue within sight of Siwa’s lights than an authentic Berber experience. Second, although there were about twenty people for dinner, we ate separately and were the only 4 who spent the night freezing in sleeping bags. 


                Table for four, Wahid Desert Camp

We had a surprise midnight visit from the crew from the movie set who decided our camp was warmer than theirs. We had no idea who was shining lights and making noise—Libyans, maybe—and Mohassen never bothered to tell us what was going on.


                 Salt Pans


                       Ouch! That smarts.

After breakfast and a shower back at Shali Resort, Ragad managed to talk his way into a special area in the Noran salt pans and convinced the foreman to allow us to wander unimpeded. We had seen truckloads of salt at checkpoints on the highway and now we know where they come from. The spectacular turquoise water hides the fact that the water is so caustic. Just ask Connie and the cut on her finger.


                     Gabal al Mawta/Mountain of the Dead


                     Inside Mesu Isis Tomb


                      Passage to the Underworld

Our last “official” stop was at Gabal al Mawta. Mountain of the Dead is an area of ancient tombs dating to the Third Century BCE. From the crags above the tombs look like a giant prairie dog town but only four of the tombs are open and worth seeing. The art is decidedly Greek with much more detail than the typical Egyptian paintings. The Crocodile Tomb shows scenes from the Book of the Dead similar to tombs from Valley of the Kings and a stylized crocodile for which the tomb is named. 


                      Inspiration for Liz Taylor?

Not surprisingly we skipped the included donkey ride around town. We still have our pride, doncha know.


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