Nawamis and The Rock of Inscriptions in The Sinai Desert, 1984
There are several prehistoric structures known as “Nawamis” and found only in southern and eastern Sinai. These circular inward leaning buildings were constructed using sandstone slabs, each with a small opening facing west. It is thought that the Nawamis were probably ancient burial chambers but no one knows the identity of the people buried here. There are more than 30 Nawamis next to the road from Nuweiba to St. Catherine’s Monastery. Archaeologists have unearthed shell bracelets, colored beads, flint tools, as well as bone and copper tools that were most likely funeral offerings and many date back to the Copper Stone Age, 4000-3150 BC. A short stop here to explore and then on to the Rock of Inscriptions and Ein Khudra Oasis for another busy day.
Riding through the desert hour-after-hour was a surreal experience. Waves of heat rose from the sands making it difficult to stay awake and keep eyes open. While dozing, it wasn’t unusual for a dozer to bash his/her head on the top of the truck while jolting along or even fall off the sideways-facing seat. The distant mountains changed colors by the minute and resembled a three-dimensional movie set. Unfortunately, all this was before Digital Cameras when film actually cost money. That cut down on one and all’s picture taking including mine. Wouldn’t it be interesting to do a Groundhog Day just with travel experiences?
The group took a walk through the sandstone “Coloured Canyon”, past brilliantly colored rocks and canyon walls streaked with red, yellow, purple and other colors. The guide pointed out a wall where ancient people would chip out colors to paint as paint. The “Coloured Canyon” strongly resembles photos I’ve seen of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. The same whorls and multi-colored landscape. If you can’t visit the Sinai Desert, try to see Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah for a similar visage. Of course, you won’t see a friendly Bedouin wave from his camel!
The Rock of Inscriptions is the Sinai’s graffiti fame with messages in Nabatean, Pharaonic Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Hebrew, some over 2,000 years old! These notes carved into the rock acted as a signpost and gave travelers information they needed to find their way through the Southern Sinai. Directions – “go this way” – “watch out for the dunes” and messages – “Omar and Menachem, meet me at the Ein Khudra oasis” – “I was here…you were not”…(my translation, not the guides) were incredibly interesting. The guide asked if anyone had been to Petra since Nabatean and early Christian inscriptions survived side by side. Only one German woman had visited Petra and knew anything about the Nabateans.
THEN – ex-Marine and I had never even heard of Petra, Jordan, capital of the Nabateans (Aramaic-speaking Semites), and the center of their caravan trade.
NOW – Petra is not only one of the new wonders of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site but was the movie location of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” where the Treasury stood in for the Temple of the Grail.
Rock of Inscriptions made such an impact on us that we visited Petra in 1989 and in 1996. If you haven’t seen Petra with your own eyes yet, put it on your “must see” list. Fantabulous doesn’t describe it…
The oasis of Ein Khudra was visible from the top of the Rock of Inscriptions, appearing to be a mirage in the distance, and we walked down the steep path to visit this lush oasis. Ein Khudra has date palm gardens and bountiful water supply and like all oases is a resting place for all travelers in this harsh environment. All the oases are inhabited by the local Bedouins. The children are always interested in seeing a visitor but the women disappeared when we arrived. The group was going to sleep in a Bedouin village toward the end of the trip…