THE ROCK ART OF GILF KEBIR, EGYPT

THE CAVE OF SWIMMERS

 
 
László Almásy
Explorer László Almásy
The remote Cave of Swimmers is located at Wadi Sura in the mountainous Gilf Kebir plateau of the Sahara, in southwest Egypt near the Libyan border.
 
Wadi Sora itself is a sheltered inlet within a promontory of the main plateau. The main painted caves were discovered by the Hungarian explorer László Almásy in October 1933 during the Frobenius expedition. They contain the diminuitive but defined 'swimming' figures, as portrayed in Michael Ondaatje's Novel 'The English Patient' and the Oscar Academy Award winning film adaptation by the late Anthony Minghella, starring Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas.
 
Swimming Figures The Cave of Swimmers
Swimming Figures
Swimming Figures The Cave of Swimmers
Swimming Figures
 
The English Patient
The paintings are estimated to have been created during the Neolithic 8,000 years ago. The area surrounding Wadi Sora is rich in rock art sites, including the 'Giraffe rock' site discovered by Patrick A. Clayton in 1931. 'Cave C' [after Hans Rhotert's cataloguing] has numerous figures. 'Cave D' contains an extended panel of cattle, female figures and a group of archers. 'Cave F', in an underhang of a large solitary rock, contains several paintings and engravings of human figures and giraffes. Many of the area's rock sites, however, remain unexplored, and to date very little archaeological research has been carried out.
 
The English Patient
The English Patient
László Almásy devoted a chapter to the cave in his 1934 publication 'Az Ismeretlen Szahara', translated as 'The Unknown Sahara'. In it he postulates that the swimming scenes are real depictions of life at the time of painting, suggesting a climate change from temperate to desert, seen at the time as a radical new theory. In 2002 Andras Zboray translated the original Hungarian text.
 
In the late 1920's and early 1930's the Libyan Desert saw greater and more innovative exploration; this vast area of the Sahara was being mapped by a small number of explorers, such as Ralph Bagnold, Douglas Newbold, Kennedy Shaw, and the aforementioned László Almásy and Patrick A. Clayton. Bagnold and Almásy were the first to venture into the desert in motor cars; Almásy made the first motor car expedition from Cairo to Khartoum in 1926, then traversed the hitherto unexplored section of the Darb el Arbain from Selima to Kharga in 1929, and Bagnold successfully conquered the 'Sand Sea' in 1930. Clayton, with the Desert Survey, explored further westward with systematic mapping of the Western Desert, and Newbold and Shaw, in one of the last great camel journeys, surveyed much of the desert in northern Sudan.
 
László Almásy Gilf Kebir
László Almásy survey
of Gilf Kebir
In 1932 Almásy and Clayton, together with a similarly-named young Englishman, Sir Robert Clayton East Clayton, organised a major expedition to survey the unknown western side of the Gilf Kebir, and for the first time the surveying equipment included an aeroplane - a Gypsy Moth belonging to Robert Clayton. The Gypsy Moth revealed three hidden valleys with vegetation in the northern Gilf Kebir. All previous attempts to reach them over land had failed, but in 1933 Almásy and Clayton, on separate expeditions, succeeded in entering them - Clayton the two to the east, Wadi Hamra and Wadi Abd el Melik, and Almásy to the west, Wadi Talh. On the same 1933 expedition Almásy went on to reach Regenfeld and the rock paintings of Ain Doua at Uweinat. Later that year, on a separate expedition, he discovered the painted caves at Wadi Sora - he had found the 'swimmers'.
 
Visit the Cave of Swimmers - Bradshaw Foundation Travel Expeditions

THE ROCK ART OF WADI SORA - THE CAVE OF SWIMMERS

 
The Cave of Swimmers
The Cave of Swimmers
View from the Cave
The Cave of Swimmers
The Cave of Swimmers
Cave Entrance
 
Rock Art of the Cave of Swimmers
Rock Art of the Cave of Swimmers
Rock Art of the Cave of Swimmers
Rock Art of the Cave of Swimmers
 
Rock Art of the Cave of Swimmers
Rock Art of the Cave of Swimmers
Rock Art of the Cave of Swimmers
Rock Art of the Cave of Swimmers
 
Rock Art of the Cave of Swimmers
Rock Art Figures from the
Cave of Swimmers in Egypt
Ralph Fiennes The English Patient
Ralph Fiennes played a fictionalized László Almásy in the film The English Patient
 
The Artists of the Cave of Swimmers
African Rock Art Archive
 
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