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The Blue Desert: Wadi Mukattab, Wadi Maghara, Gebel Fuga

The Blue Desert: Wadi Mukattab, Wadi Maghara, Gebel Fuga

Among the most ancient art work ever found in the area of South Sinai is the graffiti found at Wadi Mukattab (Valley of the Scriptures).


Dating back to the period between the second and third century AD, the carvings were identified with the time of the Nabataeans.

The area is also known for its mines, dug into the mountain of Gebel Mukattab, the famed bas-relief from the Old Kingdom that was discovered by the British Explorer Palmer, showing king Sekhemkhet, the “prince, commander of the expedition” (3rd Dynasty, 2600 BC).

This wasn’t the only bas-relief discovered in this Wadi, as the British Egyptologist William Flinders Petrie discovered about twelve of them in this valley alone, but unfortunately they weren’t in their best state, as they were badly damaged by mining in the region.

For people interested in history, they can have a trip back in time by following an ancient track connecting the mines of Maghara with the ports of Markha in the Gulf of Suez where all the turquoise and copper brought down from the area were transported to Egypt by boats.

Gebel Fuga – known as the Forest of Pillars – is one unique spot in Sinai, as it contains pipe-like poles of black lava, driven up like many mineral deposits from the surrounding rocks.

Wadi Maghara, Sinai Desert
Wadi Maghara, Sinai Desert
Gebel Fuga, Sinai Desert
Gebel Fuga, Sinai Desert
Wadi Mukattab, Sinai Desert
Wadi Mukattab, Sinai Desert

More About Blue Desert: Wadi Mukattab, Wadi Maghara, Gebel Fuga

Wadi Maghara
Wadi Maghara is located in the southwest of the Sinai Peninsula to the east of Abu Rudeis on the coast road and just to the north of Wadi Feiran. Several rock faces in the wadi have relief inscriptions of early rulers of Egypt which document their expeditions to mine the precious minerals, primarily turquoise and copper, found in the area. These minerals were brought down from the gebel on an ancient track which still exists today, to the port of Markha to be transported by boat into Egypt. Turquoise was especially precious because it was used in jewellery and statuary in ancient Egypt. The mines at Wadi Maghara were a profitable source of turquoise and copper until at least the New Kingdom.

Gebel Fuga
Gebel Fuga, in the remote Sinai interior to the east of Serabit el-Khadim, is a large desert plateau surrounded by mountains. On a sloping hillside there is one of the most interesting geological oddities to be seen on the peninsula. This area has been given the name Forest of Pillars – an accurate description for this large group of black lava-like twisted columns of rock which appear to grow out of the side of the mountain like stalagmites. The rocks range in size from baby bubbles on a flat surface to tall corkscrew shapes reaching to a metre or more in height and crowded together as if they were supporting each other. The columns appear to be hollow and many have been broken off and left to lie on the surrounding sandstone slope.

Wadi Mukattab
Running adjacent to the Wadi Feiran, from north-west to south-east, lies the Wadi Mukattab, whose name means the ‘Valley of Writing’. In the base of the valley the steep rocky walls contain around three kilometres of ancient writings and graffiti carved or bruised into the rock. The wide sandy wadi was deserted and very beautiful in the late afternoon when you will be arrived there but many of the carvings were darkened by shadows and our Bedouin guide was getting restless as dusk would soon come to this remote place.

Last Updated on Wednesday 22nd December 2010