Al-Ahram Weekly Online   9 - 15 October 2008
Issue No. 917
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Snap shots

By Mohamed El-Hebeishy

It is usually Taba or Sharm El-Sheikh; that would be the first thing to come to one's mind whenever Sinai is mentioned, but there is much more than meets the eye. Mohamed El-Hebeishy treads the Peninsula's unbeaten tracks in search for a one of a kind artistic installation.

From the 1956 Suez Crisis to the 1967 Six-Day War, from the 1968-1970 War of Attrition to the 1973 Yom Kippur, Egyptian- Israeli conflict unfolded through the chapters of history, page after page. It finally came to an end with the 1978 Camp David Accords, followed by the official signing of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty in Washington DC on 26 March 1979. World famous Belgian artist Jean Verame wanted to celebrate this historical peace in his own way.

Verame first came to Sinai in 1978. Inspired by the hit song "Don't it Make Your Brown Eyes Blue," he spent two years attempting to the Egyptian authorities to allow him to pursue his artistic dream. With the official approval of Egypt's president at the time, Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat himself, and 10 tonnes of paint provided by the UN, Jean started painting the desert blue. One year later, the "Line of Peace", or the "Sinai Peace Junction" as it is also sometimes called, was finished. The stretch between Dahab and St Catherine, known as the Plateau of Hallaoui, extends almost 6.5km with boulders rising up to nine metres in height, all painted blue.

Born in Ghent in 1936, Verame had already decorated a river bed in France and 2.5km coastal stretch on the island of Corsica in 1968. Four years after Sinai's Line of Peace, he completed another blue painting extravaganza; this time it was in Morocco. With approval granted by the late Moroccan Monarch King Hassan II, Verame went into the mountains with a team of firemen and 18 tonnes of blue, red, violet and white paint. In three months' time, he and his team painted granite boulders and small hills of the Anti-Atlas Mountains; "Les Pierres Bleus" (The Blue Rocks) was born near Tafroute.

photo: Mohamed El-Hebeishy

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