Egypt Picture - Gebel El Mawta

Gebel El Mawta

Gebel El Mawta


John Hawes


Gebel El Mawta


Gebel (Jebel) al-Mawta in the Siwa Oasis of Egypt is known, for fairly obvious reasons, as the Mountain of the Dead, because it is here in this conical mountain a little over a kilometer to the north of Shali along the main road from the escarpment that a number of tombs are situated. Local residents also call it Gebel (Qaret) al-Musabbarin (Missabbarin), meaning Mountain of the Embalmed. The tombs, which cover every inch of its base and are situated on its terraces and on all sides of the conical part, date from the 26th Dynasty, the Greek (Ptolemaic) and the Roman periods, though there appear to be no Christian burials.

Though there are some notable ones, most of the tombs on Gebel al-Mawta are barren, and bones once littered the mountain. Tradition maintains that Radwan, the king of Siwa at the time of the Arab invasion of Egypt, took the bodies from Gebel al-Mawta and threw them into many of the springs in an attempt to poison the enemy. Also, despite the fact that the people of the Siwa believe the mountain to be haunted and will not venture there at night, it is here, in times of great rains and invasions by modern armies, that the inhabitants go for protection, living in the caves with the dead. Unfortunately, they also destroyed many of the caves, chipping away the inscriptions and even violating the mummies in search of amulets.

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