Sinai’s ‘Blue Desert,’ a work of art attracting tourists and pilgrims

The Blue Desert is most known to tourists and pilgrims visiting Mount Sinai and the St Catherine Monastery.
Sunday 11/03/2018
Visitors are seen at the Blue Desert in South Sinai.  (Wikimedia)
Visitors are seen at the Blue Desert in South Sinai. (Wikimedia)

SOUTH SINAI - When he dyed in blue the rocks and boulders of the desert in South Sinai in 1980, Belgian artist Jean Verame could not have expected the area to turn into one of the wonders of Egyptian desert life.

Verame painted the rocks of this part of the desert, a few kilometres from the Red Sea resort of Dahab and the St Catherine Monastery, to celebrate the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, the first between an Arab country and the Jewish state.

The innovative artist used tonnes of blue — the colour of peace — paint donated by the United Nations. He spent days dyeing the rocks and stones of the area, once a battleground in the 1967 war between Egypt and Israel.

Now known as the Blue Desert, the area remains a wonder carrying the marks of man and nature in the heart of Egypt’s desert.

“The area is a work of art that combines the beauty of nature and the artistry of man,” said tourism specialist Hassan al-Dali. “The idea of creating it by the Belgian artist was untraditional at first but the motivation behind this work was really great, namely to highlight the importance of peace and coexistence,” Dali said.

Verame’s selection of blue complements Sinai’s deep blue sky and matches the arid desert, creating a rare mix with the yellow sands and the brown of rocks and boulders.

In Egypt, some deserts derive their names from their natural colours, such as the White Desert and the Black Desert in the western part of the country.

The Blue Desert is most known to tourists and pilgrims visiting Mount Sinai and the St Catherine Monastery, the site where God is believed by many to have appeared to Moses.

The monastery, the oldest continually inhabited, was built in the seventh century and receives thousands of foreign and local visitors every month. It contains the relics of St Catherine and its well-preserved church displays Greek and Roman heritage.

Not far from the Blue Desert, the Dahab resort on the Red Sea is a major attraction for beach tourism. The resort has hotels suiting all types of budgets and boasts some of the Red Sea’s most eye-catching beaches.

An outing into the Blue Desert from any of the nearby sites can be rewarding, especially for the eyes and the senses.

“The Blue Desert is very easy to reach from any of these places,” said Mohamed Sedki, a computer engineer in his mid-40’s who said he never visits Dahab without an outing into the Blue Desert. “The place is more than wonderful especially for those who want to spend times in the serene atmosphere the desert provides.”The Blue Desert is most visited during the Christmas season.

At night, the blue-dyed objects look like stars denting the vast desert. Some painted stones are more than 30 metres tall. At times they appear to be giant balloons or great chewing gum bubbles.

Karim Mohamed, a tour guide from the area, said he offers a full list of activities for visitors of the desert, including camping, mountain climbing and cycling.

“This is a place that is full of fun. It is very simple, very austere. Yet it has an amount of charm that makes it unforgettable for visitors,” Mohamed said.

Visitors sit between two giant blue rocks in South Sinai. (Ahmed Megahid)
Sand covers blue desert rocks in South Sinai. (Ahmed Megahid)