I will tread the valleys and climb the hills, I will brave floods and fire to reach a desolate cliff, battling with day and night, struggling to the death. But I will never forsake my quest, and neither boredom nor exhaustion will deter me, for I am the hunter of my tribe. -- Maybe the exact words of the hunting incantation coursing through these valleys were different, but the gist can only have been the same. The words were inescapably present in my mind when I first laid eyes on the amazing rock art of Wadi Al-Reshrash, Mohamed El-Hebeishy writes.
Wadi Al-Reshrash is located in the Eastern Desert, 60-70km south of Cairo. To reach it, you drive down the Upper Egypt "Agricultural" Highway till Al-Saff, then turn east into the desert. Driving on dry sediment makes slower speed necessary, which means that it will take you a good one-hour drive to reach the rock art site. A desiccated valley dotted with dark boulders, it affords a glimpse into the earliest creative impulses of humanity -- the illustrations on the boulders depicting hunting more than anything: a hunter riding a horse or a camel, holding a spear, braves the desert heat in pursuit of the Nubian ibex, the most common prey, until recently to be seen in abundance throughout Wadi Al-Reshrash, which in 1900 was declared a protectorate and preserved as a royal hunting preserve. The king's rest house can still be seen further down the valley -- its spacious portico adjacent to an enormous cage with two towers lurking beyond. Sadly the ibex have dwindled in number due to excessive hunting and desertification.
Rock art can be found elsewhere in Egypt: the Djarra Cave in the Western Desert, Wadi Rusummat in the Eastern Desert and (discovered as recently as 12 May 2002) Al-Gilf Al-Kabir.
photo: Mohamed El-Hebeishy