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Gilf el-Kebir

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Gif el-Kebir is a large plateau in Egypt. The name can be translated as the great barrier. It is located in trhe extreme south-east of Egypt, next ot Lybia and Sudan. It has about the same size as Switzerland. It rises 300 m above the rest of the desert. The plateau is very arid and difficult to access. There is a crater called Kebir crater in the plateau.

The Uweinat mountain range at the very south of the plateau is shared between Egypt, Libya and Sudan.


  • Akhdar وادى الاخض
  • Bakht وادى البخت
  • Dayiq وادى الضيق
  • Firaq وادى فراق
  • Gazayir وادى الجزائر
  • Maftuh وادى مفتوح
  • Mashi وادى مشى
  • Wassa وادى وسع

The Gilf Kebir is mentioned in Michael Ondaatje's novel 'The English Patient'. It was also the site of the recent discovery of a bag which had been lost in the Second World War by a dispatch rider (Alec Ross) of the Long Range Desert Group, part of the British Army. This contained the rider's personal letters and photographs, and had been well preserved.


The Gilf Kebir is known for its prehistoric (Neolithic) petroglyphs

  • Karkur Talh and Karkur Murr: major eastern valleys of the Uweinat contain one of the richest concentrations of rock art in the whole Sahara.
  • Western Uweinat: Shelters under the huge granite boulders in the western Uweinat contain numerous paintings, including the famous sites of Ain Doua.
  • Jebel Arkenu, Jebel Kissu & Yerguehda Hill, the lesser granite massifs around Uweinat have many smaller sites.
  • Mogharet el Kantara in the southern Gilf Kebir contains only one known rock art site, a cave discovered by Shaw & party in 1936.
  • Wadi Sora in the northwestern Gilf Kebir: the "Cave of Swimmers" (or Swimmers' Cave), discovered by the Hungarian Count László Almásy (The English Patient), plus many other paintings nearby.
  • The North-western half of the Gilf Kebir aside from Wadi Sora has only a few scattered engravings, of an apparently very ancient age.
  • In January 2003, Zarzora Expeditions and Jacopo Foggini independently announced the discovery of a major new rock art site in the Western Gilf Kebir (Foggini-Mestekawi Cave).

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