Sam McConnell - Discovering the Red Land at May Gaucho City
For the ancient Egyptians, the earth beneath their feet had only two colours; red and black. The banks of the river Nile, black and rich in nutrients, have supported human civilisation for thousands of years. In the rock and sand of the surrounding desert, baked red by the Sun, only the hardiest can survive. Less than one year ago, nine of us set out on a journey across the Eastern Desert of Egypt, a journey of over 200km from the shores of the Red Sea to the banks of the River Nile; a journey that many thought impossible and doomed to fail.
Sam McConnell, expedition leader and co-founder of the desert expedition company MCX, held his audience transfixed as he recounted, blow by blow, the story of our journey through the desert at the esteemed SES lecture held at Gaucho City in the heart of London. This desert expedition, the first of a brand new series of expeditions designed by MCX, lasted three weeks in total, and was fully supported by camels and their Bedouin handlers, with emergency vehicles on standby. Extremely remote and a hotspot for illicit mining activity, the Eastern Desert posed considerable logistical and administrative challenges, requiring permissions from senior government officials and numerous Bedouin Sheikhs, who insisted on accompanying us through their land. Not that we minded, the crossing of the Eastern Desert was an opportunity not only to discover new places, but to encounter new people and cultures as well. As we accustomed ourselves to their daily rhythm, we soon developed the bond of travelling companions, and at the end of a long day, after the camp was made and the sun had set, we would all fall asleep around the fire, listening to stories and watching the stars shine overhead.
A riveting journey full of adventure, mystery and ancient history, our intrepid team was left in awe as we discovered ancient clues left behind by some of the oldest civilisations in history. Hundreds of miles away from the nearest museum we attempted to decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, carved next to prehistoric rock engravings, untouched for thousands of years. These and the sight of Roman military forts, now long abandoned, appearing over the horizon left us speechless. Rarely do we have such an opportunity to observe the past so closely and in the same tranquillity, as when walking through the desert with nothing but the company of your own fellow travellers.
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