Dare Me To The Desert

Posted by sepoy on October 05, 2005 · 3 mins read

Perusing the archives, I come across this nugget of information in the Meeting Notes of Royal Geographic Society:

With reference to the point raised during the discussion of Mr. Rodd's paper on "The Origin of the Tuareg" as to how long grazing camels can go without water, it might be of interest to record the following.

Copious rains fell in this district, Gebel Elba in the Eastern Desert of Egypt, last November, and the vegetation that sprang up has been kept green by dew and further showers. The camels of my survey expedition drank last near Mersa Shab on November 22, and my sheikh el hamla does not propose to water them till about the end of Ramadan, April 14, perhaps. That is to say, they have already gone 103 days, and may go another 40 days, without water. They have moved my camp by very easy stages 440 km in the 103 days. As to whether grazing, not working, camels could go six months in the cool of the year on green grazing neither my guides nor me entertain any doubt whatever. But in hot weather it is a very different matter. I suppose Hassanein Ahmed Bey's march in ten days from Owenat to Erdi 450 km, in May represents about the best that could be done without either water or grazing.

Says G. W. Murray, aka Desert Murray in 1925.

I had read about Hassanein Pasha but didn't recall anything about this legendary camel journey. Here is what I found out poking around. Sir Ahmed M. Hassanein Bey [d. 1946] was an Oxford trained Fellow of the Society who undertook some of the first journeys across the Libyan desert. His fame wasn't from the journey from Jebel Uweinat that Murray mentions, though. It is from one of his first expeditions across Sahara a few years before with Rosita Forbes in 1920-21. After that journey, he undertook several expeditions across the Libyan Sahara garnering himself a Founder's Medal. He later became the tutor and advisor to King Farouk.

Ms. Rosita Forbes [1890-1967], meanwhile, was an amazing woman who went around the world before she even turned 20. That account she published in Unconducted Wanderers in 1919. At the end of that journey, she became friends with Hassanein Bey and Murray and the other British milling about Egypt and Middle East after the Great War. To make her travels with Hassanein Bey easier, she adopted the name of Khadija, a fake Circassian mother and a nice disguise. Their journey is recorded in her The Secret of the Sahara: Kufara. Rosita Forbes continued to travel across Middle East, India, Afghanistan, South America and writing about it. She published numerous travel books and two memoirs.

There was a time when men and women did.


Mohamed Mabrouk | November 28, 2006

find more on Ahmed Hassanein's journey by his own article to National Geographic magazine here (Full Text): http://saharasafaris.org/hassaneinbey

sepoy | November 28, 2006

Many thanks for sharing that link and introducing me to your wonderful site.