Tag Archives: Siwa

Lost Doggerland, Some Historical Changes and Some Large-Scale Projects

In January of 2019, I wrote the following speculative piece:

https://ianrmillard.wordpress.com/2019/01/26/the-tide-is-coming-in-reflections-on-the-possible-end-of-our-present-civilization-and-what-might-follow/

16 months later, I believe that the article is even more relevant, now that Coronavirus/Covid-19 has concentrated minds (and leaving aside the fact that the Chinese virus is overblown and also being used by the System to bluff people into becoming members of police states across Europe and beyond).

I was just reading again about “Doggerland”, which is not a gonzo-literature novel about some of the leisure activities of a sub-set of the English pleb-dom, but a large territory that once existed between the area now designated as “UK”, and those of present-day “Denmark”, “Germany”, “Netherlands” etc.

At the end of the last ice age, Britain formed the northwest corner of an icy continent. Warming climate exposed a vast continental shelf for humans to inhabit. Further warming and rising seas gradually flooded low-lying lands. Some 8,200 years ago, a catastrophic release of water from a North American glacial lake and a tsunami from a submarine landslide off Norway inundated whatever remained of Doggerland.https://www.nationalgeographic.org/maps/doggerland/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doggerland

and see the very interesting series of maps below

[By Francis Lima – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49850020] It can be seen that, at its greatest extent, what is now called “Doggerland” (a term invented only in the 1990s), together with similar areas in the Atlantic off (mainly) the present-day coasts of the UK and Ireland (the ancient land of Lyonesse, of Arthurian legend), was larger in extent than the present-day UK.

Consideration of these matters gives perspective.

Videos about the above matters:

 

and while looking at those Doggerland videos, I also saw this one (below)

Fascinating, though possibly not a good idea even if do-able.. How about starting with something smaller, such as the Irish Sea? (only, sort-of, joking…).

In fact, large-scale projects are not always a poor idea. One which has interested many is that of creating a canal from the Mediterranean to the Qattara Depression in the Western Desert of Egypt, then using gravity to move seawater the 40 miles to the Depression.

The Qattara Depression is on average 200 ft (60m) below sea level, though the lowest part is 440 ft (134m) below sea level. No-one lives there, though the very isolated oasis of Qara https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qara_Oasis lies near the Western edge of the Depression, some 47 miles (75km) North-East of the nearest larger oasis, Siwa. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siwa_Oasis

I myself stayed in Siwa for a month, in early 1998, out of three months spent in Egypt (on that trip).

SiwaPanorama

 

275682-Siwa_Oasis_Egypt

Siwa is 189 miles (305km) from the Mediterranean Sea coast. British or American people tend to think of an oasis as being a small lake with a fringe of palm trees, but Siwa is, at greatest extent, 50 miles long and 12 miles wide, and has a total population of some 30,000 (though when you are there —admittedly I was there over 20 years ago— the place does not seem in any way heavily populated, rather the reverse). It has about 350 freshwater springs (the water of which is exported to Alexandria and Cairo in plastic bottles), 300,000 date palms, 70,000 olive trees (and some fruit trees, too).

Reverting to Qattara, the Depression is 190 miles (300km) long by 84 miles (135km) wide. Area: 7,570 square miles, about the same as mainland Wales.

A project to flood the Depression would be hugely beneficial. Fish would flood in with the water, it would change the regional climate for the better, and it would enable hydropower as well.

It may be that, by using hydropower and solar power, new eco-cities or towns, even horticultural areas, could be created and maintained, supplied with fresh water via desalination.

By AlwaysUnite – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17865159]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qattara_Depression

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qattara_Depression_Project

Fact follows fiction (again): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_of_the_Sea

Anwar Sadat was said to have been seriously interested in the Qattara idea, but when he was assassinated, the project was again mothballed.

Other projects I have seen or read about

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundrop_Farms

https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2019-05-15/port-augusta-sundrop-farms-sold-to-investment-fund-morrison-co/11108046

In Iran, not long before the Islamic Revolution unseated the Shah , there was a government programme to replace sand dunes and semi-desert with forest. Of course, the backward mullahs did not continue with it. I read about the project in the National Geographic. Brilliant.

First, the sand dunes were coated with a very thin layer of crude oil, sprayed from tanked vehicles. Secondly, seeds of the tamarisk tree (salt-resistant and heat-resistant) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamarix were spread over the oil layer.

Tamarix aphylla.jpg[above: tamarisk tree in the Negev Desert, Israel. CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=293521]

The thin oil layer prevented the seeds from being blown away by wind, and anchored the tiny shoots when germinated. The climate had enough moisture for their survival. The tiny growing shoots and trees (within a few years about 4 feet high) were protected from goats and their owners, if any, by fences and a ranger force.

Once the trees were mature (some of the 60 types of tamarisk grow as high as 60ft/18m), the idea was that the climate and ecology would be markedly improved.

Under the Shah, there was to have been a roll-out across Iran. It never happened. Sad.

There have been and still are many large-scale projects of great value, both engineering projects and more obviously “environmental” ones. Most founder on the rocks of politics and/or finance.

[Note: the above first appeared in my daily blog]

Update, 1 December 2020

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/dec/01/evidence-life-on-doggerland-after-devastating-tsunamis-study

Diary Blog, 18 May 2020

A thought out of season

Israel is a country with many interesting aspects in terms of water supply, agriculture and horticulture, urban planning, afforestation etc.

I should certainly find it interesting to visit Israel, because I find artificially-contrived societies interesting in general (Singapore and North Korea being two others which do not seem natural), but I doubt that it would be long before I became the victim of a traffic accident, a scuba accident, or whatever. You get the idea…

Strange. He looked quite healthy quite recently…

More musing

In January of 2019, I wrote the following speculative piece:

https://ianrmillard.wordpress.com/2019/01/26/the-tide-is-coming-in-reflections-on-the-possible-end-of-our-present-civilization-and-what-might-follow/

16 months later, I believe that the article is even more relevant, now that Coronavirus/Covid-19 has concentrated minds (and leaving aside the fact that the Chinese virus is overblown and also being used by the System to bluff people into becoming members of police states across Europe and beyond).

I was just reading again about “Doggerland”, which is not a gonzo-literature novel about some of the leisure activities of a sub-set of the English pleb-dom, but a large territory that once existed between the area now designated as “UK”, and those of present-day “Denmark”, “Germany”, “Netherlands” etc.

At the end of the last ice age, Britain formed the northwest corner of an icy continent. Warming climate exposed a vast continental shelf for humans to inhabit. Further warming and rising seas gradually flooded low-lying lands. Some 8,200 years ago, a catastrophic release of water from a North American glacial lake and a tsunami from a submarine landslide off Norway inundated whatever remained of Doggerland.https://www.nationalgeographic.org/maps/doggerland/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doggerland

and see the very interesting series of maps below

[By Francis Lima – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49850020] It can be seen that, at its greatest extent, what is now called “Doggerland” (a term invented only in the 1990s), together with similar areas in the Atlantic off (mainly) the present-day coasts of the UK and Ireland (the ancient land of Lyonesse, of Arthurian legend), was larger in extent than the present-day UK.

Consideration of these matters gives perspective.

Videos about the above matters:

 

and while looking at those Doggerland videos, I also saw this one (below)

Fascinating, though possibly not a good idea even if do-able.. How about starting with something smaller, such as the Irish Sea? (only, sort-of, joking…).

In fact, large-scale projects are not always a poor idea. One which has interested many is that of creating a canal from the Mediterranean to the Qattara Depression in the Western Desert of Egypt, then using gravity to move seawater the 40 miles to the Depression.

The Qattara Depression is on average 200 ft (60m) below sea level, though the lowest part is 440 ft (134m) below sea level. No-one lives there, though the very isolated oasis of Qara https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qara_Oasis lies near the Western edge of the Depression, some 47 miles (75km) North-East of the nearest larger oasis, Siwa. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siwa_Oasis

I myself stayed in Siwa for a month, in early 1998, out of three months spent in Egypt (on that trip).

SiwaPanorama

 

275682-Siwa_Oasis_Egypt

Siwa is 189 miles (305km) from the Mediterranean Sea coast. British or American people tend to think of an oasis as being a small lake with a fringe of palm trees, but Siwa is, at greatest extent, 50 miles long and 12 miles wide, and has a total population of some 30,000 (though when you are there —admittedly I was there over 20 years ago— the place does not seem in any way heavily populated, rather the reverse). It has about 350 freshwater springs (the water of which is exported to Alexandria and Cairo in plastic bottles), 300,000 date palms, 70,000 olive trees (and some fruit trees, too).

Reverting to Qattara, the Depression is 190 miles (300km) long by 84 miles (135km) wide. Area: 7,570 square miles, about the same as mainland Wales.

A project to flood the Depression would be hugely beneficial. Fish would flood in with the water, it would change the regional climate for the better, and it would enable hydropower as well.

It may be that, by using hydropower and solar power, new eco-cities or towns, even horticultural areas, could be created and maintained, supplied with fresh water via desalination.

By AlwaysUnite – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17865159]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qattara_Depression

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qattara_Depression_Project

Fact follows fiction (again): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_of_the_Sea

Anwar Sadat was said to have been seriously interested in the Qattara idea, but when he was assassinated, the project was again mothballed.

Other projects I have seen or read about

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundrop_Farms

https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2019-05-15/port-augusta-sundrop-farms-sold-to-investment-fund-morrison-co/11108046

In Iran, not long before the Islamic Revolution unseated the Shah , there was a government programme to replace sand dunes and semi-desert with forest. Of course, the backward mullahs did not continue with it. I read about the project in the National Geographic. Brilliant.

First, the sand dunes were coated with a very thin layer of crude oil, sprayed from tanked vehicles. Secondly, seeds of the tamarisk tree (salt-resistant and heat-resistant) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamarix were spread over the oil layer.

Tamarix aphylla.jpg[above: tamarisk tree in the Negev Desert, Israel. CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=293521]

The thin oil layer prevented the seeds from being blown away by wind, and anchored the tiny shoots when germinated. The climate had enough moisture for their survival. The tiny growing shoots and trees (within a few years about 4 feet high) were protected from goats and their owners, if any, by fences and a ranger force.

Once the trees were mature (some of the 60 types of tamarisk grow as high as 60ft/18m), the idea was that the climate and ecology would be markedly improved.

Under the Shah, there was to have been a roll-out across Iran. It never happened. Sad.

There have been and still are many large-scale projects of great value, both engineering projects and more obviously “environmental” ones. Most founder on the rocks of politics and/or finance.

UK politics

The latest opinion poll:

I suppose that what passes for a strategy in Labour is to wait until Boris-idiot messes things up even more than he has already done, then hope that, in Britain’s absurd and unfair (and basically binary) First Past The Post political-electoral system, the voters will simply cool towards the Conservative Party and thus elect Labour by default. Not much of a strategy, really…

Tweets seen

https://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2017/02/stupid-arguments-for-drug-legalisation-examined-and-refuted.html

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8327641/Coronavirus-modelling-Professor-Neil-Ferguson-branded-mess-experts.html

and I like this…

Image

Night music

The Jews I Met At An Oasis

A random tweet seen just reminded me of when I met a group of Jews in a desert oasis. It happened like this: I was in Egypt for several months in the winter of 1997-98. I started off in charming Aswan, spent a week or two under canvas in a then-remote part of the Red Sea coast, and then a month or so in Alexandria (an experience recounted, in part, here: https://ianrmillard.wordpress.com/2019/03/07/when-i-was-not-arrested-in-egypt/).

I left Alexandria to visit the remote oasis of Siwa, in the Western Desert not very far from Libya, southwest of the Qattara Depression and only a mile or two from the first great dunes of the Great Sea of Sand:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siwa_Oasis

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qattara_Depression

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Sand_Sea

275681-Siwa_Oasis_Egypt275695-The_desert oasis of Siwa

SiwaPanoramaA VIEW OF THE OLD AND NEW CITY OF SIWA IN EGYPT'S WESTERN DESERT.

I lived for a month, maybe longer, in a kind of small concrete chalet in the garden of the very small hotel I used. The hotel garden was sand but planted with closely-situated date palms. I discovered that dry date palm fronds, fallen from the trees, burn easily. Thus I inadvertently started a “tradition” of having a fire around which people gathered and talked in the cool of the evening.

Most visitors to the oasis would arrive on the one bus (a luxury Mercedes coach) in early evening, stay only one or two nights, then return to Alexandria (an 8-hour journey via Marsa Matruh on the coast). By the time I left, I had spent at least a month there and was the longest-resident foreigner save for a Finnish person who did Tai Chi on the flat roof of the hotel (well, maybe you have to be a little unusual to stay long at Siwa!) and an Anglican nun who wanted to set up a Christian centre there (not a very good idea even if the authorities approved it, which was almost inconceivable). Turned out that she knew a man who had tried (unsuccessfully) to teach me Physics when I was at school in the early 1970s. Small world.

I met a number of mostly young people there. I myself was an arguably youthful 41. Apart from the Finn and the English nun, I recall quite a few others who stayed at the oasis for longer than average. Some were more eccentric than others.

There was an odd young man from somewhere near Lancaster. When in the UK, he lived in a caravan on a red squirrel conservancy and had inherited a small legacy (£12,000, I think) from his grandmother. He had lived for eight years on that, in India. He said that India was both cheaper and dirtier than Egypt. I found both statements hard to believe.

Another oddity, also English, was someone about 28, whom I at first took to be some sort of evangelical Christian, but who in fact was a militant atheist. Very militant. He had bicycled across vast expanses (including the Kazakh steppe), using a specially-built bicycle which had water storage inside its frame. He had cycled from Alexandria and was planning to cycle from Siwa to the next oasis, Bahariya, a journey of some 250 miles to the East, on a desert road used only by occasional Egyptian Army patrols, perhaps once weekly. Not a good place to get a flat or run out of water. I wonder whether he made it.

One young lady, a very attractive French girl from Rennes, the capital of Brittany, was rather interested in me, but had a boyfriend with her, a pleasant young fellow from Montpellier, so our animated conversations did not lead anywhere, or any further…

We temporary “local expats” would eat such as molokhiya, a rather slimy but oddly tasty soup made mainly from green vegetables (jute leaves); more often we might have falafel, and maybe drink helba, a kind of yellow-green herbal tea made from fenugreek (Siwa was dry in both senses).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mulukhiyah

https://www.inside-egypt.com/health-in-a-cup.html

So what about those Jews? They were tourists from Israel, travelling in a group. Students. There seemed to be about 8 of them. None of them seemed to be overtly attached. The girls were quiet, pleasant, modest; the boys slightly less quiet. Only one was extremely unpleasant, a transplanted New York Jew aged about 25, with beard and carrying at all times a thick and obviously unread paperback about “the holocaust”. I cannot recall the exact title, something about the SS and “holocaust” anyway. This particular Jew was studying at some university at Jerusalem and within minutes had marked me as a probable enemy! My copy of Alan Clark’s Barbarossa probably triggered his interest.

The others in that Israeli group, in discussion with other tourists (including my French “girlfriend” who never became a girlfriend), seemed to be reasonable in that they were not looking for war with the Arab world, but of course the unspoken elephant in the room was the historical basis: the migration of millions of Jews to British Mandate Palestine and later Israel, which displaced the previous occupants.

Still, in that milieu, by the “camp-fire”, one could briefly believe in an Arab-Israeli concordat. Only the occasional presence of the American Jew Zionist fanatic disturbed that pacific fantasy. He personified the Zionist fanatics who never quite get around to moving permanently from New York, Los Angeles or London to “Eretz Israel”, yet they are the ones who, as much or more than the “native” Israelis, push the hardline Zionist agenda. Look at the recent film featuring the former heads of MOSSAD, Shin Beth etc. They seem, in principle, less warlike than both the American (etc) “diasporic” Jew fanatics and Israel’s own political leaders.