Why This Site?

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Why This Site?


If you haven't caught the bug of the exploration and traveling and wonder why people do it, then you might like to read here.

SaharaSafaris is perhaps now the largest traveling community in Egypt and myself, as a member of it, I feel that the real excitement lies beyond the 'normal' adventures. Whatever belies there, this website is part of my trials to discover it. And Hassanein Pasha's motives lie in the heart of it.

Why Ahmed Hassanein?

This is one side of the desert hard to express except for the most imaginative. But let's put it this way: Ahmed's adventure was inspirational!

Ahmed Bey Hassanein is virtually unknown to 21st century people even in his own native country Egypt. His later truly influential political career, may have overshadowed this other side. This site focuses only on the expedition he did in 1923 in which he made the impressive discovery of Ouenat.

Ahmed never took up desert exploration for a career like almost all other European explorers. He seemed to use the desert for matters like those of some Cairo residents of today--recreation and perhaps patriotism.

Why All the History Here?

Ahmed was not your everyday's adventurer. Every single detail in his biography and writings point to a man of the world with ambitions. Although always with composure, some of his words have betrayed him and has shown some frustrations and ambitions.

Ahmed wrote: "I allowed the caravan to go on without me, and for half an hour I remained seated upon a dune gazing at those hitherto-legendary mountains. For whatever sacrifices I had made and hardships I had endured, there was full compensation in those few moments, as I realized that I had found what I came to seek." (p. 270)

I have thought that those "sacrifices" deserve to be investigated and for such a terribly important political figure of Egyptian modern history, he must have had a lot of the World's events on his mind even at this early stage of his career. Understanding some sides of the world of his days might enable us to guess those frustrations and ambitions.

Since I am no historian, I've chosen to follow those guidelines as much as I can:

  • direct to the point and concise in information collected here

  • images of important figures or peoples mentioned in the text

  • collecting enough info to satisfy my own curiosity but enough to reconstruct the atmosphere of those days

  • keeping my opinions for the discussions on SSC Forum (discuss).

Were Those Interesting Times?

Most certainly! He was publishing the article of his world-famous expedition sponsored by King Fuad I of Egypt. Significantly, the country has just got its official semi-independence from both Istanbul and London. Egyptians, King, Britain, Italy and France seemed to have been watching what this guy is trying to prove!

The expedition took place in the Libyan Desert where he met the Senussi leaders resisting Mussolini's Fascist occupation right before their extermination in the largest concentration camps ever set in Africa. Egypt was under British occupation headed by Allenby (Conqueror of Jerusalem). But even more, Saad Zaghlul has been elected Prime Minister at the first ever direct elections of the Egyptian Parliament under the new Constitution and is entirely changing the political stage back home at the same year of this article. The year (and decade) seems to be overcrowding with more watershed events than can happen in one's lifetime.

Those --and much more that are presented in the website here-- have helped me to reconstruct for myself the events and the complex emotions involved in such dramatic time of a person, his country, his heritage and the troubled world at the time. I hope they'll help you too.

Important Notes

It's worth mentioning here that Ahmed has done another major expedition before this one. As he mentioned in other articles he wrote, it was with Mrs McGrath (Rosita Forbes) who asked to join him with another British gentleman who had to withdraw. She later wrote a book. For some reason Ahmed didn't write any article directly related to this first expedition. All his articles and book are about this major one mentioned here.

Another important note is that all what has survived of his writings about the expedition is in English and not in Arabic his native language. This may lay in the fact that he wanted to assert the capabilities of Egypt among other nations' explorers. It would necessarily means he would have to write extensively in English. Although it's very reasonable that he must have wrote in Arabic too, there seems to be nothing survived.

Finally, a note on what he says he has collected. Hundreds of photos, plenty of footage of motion pictures, and a lot of tables and measurements taken at the field. His watches, his theodolite and aneroid barometer. In addition to all sorts of geological specimens, etc. of scientific information collected. Along with his writings, those (specially motion pictures) could be very important tools to learn more about his mysterious personality and the land in which he traveled. It could show the historical people of the Senussi that he's met too. If you know any information about that please contact me.

Why Explorers Are Important For Their People?

Explorers who become heroes have the gift of fueling the imagination of people. To break the molds of boredom that has surrounded them and clear the clouds of uncertainty that once stalled their decisions. To make them a good material of believing. To inspire... hope and everything. Stories told about the adventures of Explorers in books, storytelling sessions or now in movies have --for millennia-- engaged normal people in dreams that are halfway between possible and impossible. (See Gilgamesh as an example of travelers/heroes for their nation in the ancient times.)

The quantities of adrenalin pumped during those stories --if the audience can identify with the hero and see themselves in his place-- are enough to motivate even the most exhausted people. To give them energy from unknown sources to go and tackle their challenges with unlimited patience and reinvigorated minds.

Mohamed Mabrouk
Giza, January 2006.

For more details on credits and copyrights, please see the Editors Notes.


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