The Giza Foundation : Personal Stories



Of Lions, Jackals, Foxes, Turkeys and Hawks in the Desert

When you eventually get out to the Western desert you will find and agree it is exquisitely beautiful. In fact it is intoxicating, and after some time there, to return home leaves you forver longing for another desert  'fix.'    At first the desert seems empty or devoid of life, but this is far from true. Everywhere there are the remains or traces of animal life from the smallest to the largest of prehistoric fossilised mammals. We found Slender horned gazelle tracks on the high escarpment as they moved about their vast territory. This was amazing because we understood the species had been hunted to near extinction. One wonders how they and any kind of life can endure out there - but they do ! Read more here.


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                                                              For us - to even get there is an arduous off road journey from Cairo.

One of the hazards can be found on the side roads behind the plateau leading on to the desert where it has become a dumping ground for dead horses. Of course it is not legally permitted, but disposing of frequent dead livestock  is too costly. It costs nothing and is much easier to just slide the animal from the back of a cart or trailer at night time. These corpses can be seen any time with very little searching on the outskirts of the Giza Plateau in various stages of decay. It is a sight the tourists do not get to see ! Maybe it is where the one above was destined to end up?



When we get out to the desert there are a few places we always visit. Check out the escarpment pic above. This is the cave home of one of our Coptic hermit monk friends. At the time of these pics a second cave Chapel was under construction and we were honoured to help. We stayed in his original fissure cave overnight and this led to unusual animal encounters. Our friend had already explained the rats and snakes show themselves during darkness, but as we were too big to be their food, they would not trouble us ....and we had no reason to trouble them.


We were not sure if he was having fun with us, but on the first night there on the floor of the cave in our sleeping bags we were wary. I was nearest the door and I was too hot to sleep. Well into the night I could tell I was the only one awake. I heard the clear scratching sounds as rodents were moving about and knew he had been telling the truth !


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I got up and went outside to meditate from the rock shown in the pic above. (where a figure can just be seen.)  A short time before dawn I was shocked alert in the darkness by the very loud sound of a wolf howl directly above me on the top of the escarpment.


I listened as the desert Wolf.... the Jackal, called again and again.  I called back !  There was silence for at least half a minute and I heard the sound of a chorus of howls from various loactions above me.. and then it fell silent again. It was a very profound moment to know we had communicated.


When I spoke to our Coptic friend later, he said he was aware of them nearby and that they had come to see me. He figured for sure they had been aware of my presence and had likely been very close to check me out. We looked around the slopes and found their tracks not far away. He told me they knew every route over and around the escarpment and always taught him the best routes to use. Sadly the Jackal is also in severe decline due to over hunting. Read more of it here.



Another location we enjoy visiting on the way into the desert, is Abu Lifa, the Coptic hermitage fortress. I detailed on another page when a Camel Spider said hello, but one other spectacular sight there was the Hawk display. They tried to dive bomb us as we climbed the escarpment and they were a beautiful sight. If you relate one pic to another you will find on the original, where the nest was located near the caves.



We noted Hawk nest sites in several other locations dotted around the valley of the springs and they were always very protective of their nests.



A lot has to be extracted from the pics below ! (See here for full details.) The place that became known to us as the Horse Cave, is below the promontary slightly right of centre in the first pic. Distance is deceiving and the cliff is about half a mile away. Just below the clean sand there is a hidden shelf where we positioned the jeep. We had our city tourguide with us and he was supposed to be experienced here also. However he was reluctant to join in with anything and made our time somewhat miserable as he continually made excuses to try and cut our time short to return to Cairo.


We had visited the cave before and knew it had strange energetic properties. It was half way up the escarpment and belonged to a time of long ago when the sea level was at least 100 to 150 feet higher. Since that time earthquakes had damaged many known cave systems. This one had been magnificent and was at the shore line of the ancient sea. It was special because the earthquake had clearly caught animals and their handlers inside and killed them. Their clean bones were now to be found. But inside the system we found on one occasion, all our batteries, in torches and cameras, discharged to zero together ! In other photos there were strange light distortions such as in the one below where I photographed Judith.



On this particular occasion we returned to the Jeep to find the Guide had spun the wheels into the sand in an attempt to move it. The vehicle was pancaked on to the sand and it took a huge effort to free it. We were all very angry. The twist to the story however was that the Guide acted terrified. He said he had tried to move the jeep to come and get us when a huge lion had appeared on the sand not far away!  We investigated and found no tracks and were all just left scratching our heads. Maybe it was just a story because he wanted to get home quicker. Maybe his fear of the place made him hallucinate.. or maybe ??  Much later we heard from others who claimed to have seen a Lion in the deep desert. Hmmm!


We always visited the Coptic hermitage and Church and helped wherever we could. The isolated community was steadily increasing, and when everyone came together, food was sometimes a problem. We always remembered a huge Turkey which had free run of the whole area. One year it was nowhere to be seen. We were told in times of food shortage it ended up in the pot. Not all monks are vegetarian !



Near one of the lakes there was a village we visited to see friends. It was a big loving family but it always seemed strange to see chickens wandering through the main room and a cow tethered in the back yard. Cattle were always on the move through the village. This was probably closer to what it must have been like hundreds of years ago in the villages. Nearby the lake provided fish, and was a lot safer without crocodiles or hippo's. It was one of the delights to be able to swim there even if it was full of weed, and underwater, the ground was like squishy mud to walk on.




    All the creatures of Egypt - A comprehensive URL Research  List    Here 



Read about when we had a Fox for breakfast !  HERE



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