Illustrated Desert Sayings – or God before mankind.

Travelling in the Lybian desert, in Egypt’s Western part, is a metaphysical experience, where infinity meets God. The desert feels like God before mankind. It’s an uplifting experience of purity and eternity. Many hermites have discovered that the desert helps them in their meditations. Some still live in the desert albeit in monastries with a minimum of comfort but away from the busy daily lives of our hectic societies. To have had the opportunity of having a dip in this world of sand and stone, between heaven and earth, was a divine experience.

“The Athletes for Christ,” as they called themselves, were among the first to have this experience. It was in the fourth century that these Fathers of the Desert settled as hermites in different parts of the desert: in Syria, Palestine and Egypt. They endured hardships unimaginable to mankind in pursuit of spiritual rigor.

By Miguel Branco at Jaeger Bucher Gallery

I was priviledged to venture out in the middle of nowhere with a group of very experienced Bedouins ( with Mourad as our desert-fox guide. Bedouins, I discovered, are extremely pleasant, hard working, courteous, artistic and handy people. The desert can be fatal for someone who isn’t well prepared and should never be ventured alone. We were several jeeps of which some had a good deal of experiences of driving around in soft, hard, stony, deep, flat… sand. One has to be careful for a dune can look easy to pass when in fact it’s very steep on the other side. All the jeeps got stuck at one point or another. We had to carry all necessities with us: warm clothes (the temperatures sink drastically at night fall), water, food, tents, sleeping-bags etc.

Flattening the tires to make them like “camel feet”: flat and steady in the sand. I invite you to travel with me, accompanied by some of the Desert Father’s and Bedouin’s Sayings:

Before anything else we need humility

If the inner person is not watchful, the outer person cannot be watched

My treasures do not chink or glitter. They gleam in the sun and neigh in the night.

He who shares my bread and salt is not my enemy.

Every evening the Bedouins cooked us wonderful meals around the fire. Here turkey dug and grilled in the sand. Another meal: lamb done in similar fashion. Accompanied by ancient Arab poems such as Kalila wa Dimna or by songs and traditional lute – oud – playing.

 Perplexity is the beginning of knowledge.

(Khalil Gibran)


Mourad                                            Bedouins from Desert Cruise

Driving in the desert demanded quite some dexterity from the drivers and vehicles alike:


The sand dunes move around 5 to 12 meters per year and they also give birth to baby sand dunes so the desert doesn’t look the same from year to year.

Jeeps replace camels but not always. Did you know that there are one thousand names for a camel? Twelve of which are from the time when the calf is in his mother’s womb until he is born and falls on the ground. The camel totem teaches us to help others while not to be too dependent on them and to draw the power from within.




Not much grows in the desert although there are several traces from a past lush life: shells, stones, fossils…

The only animal I saw was a small desert mouse:

Quietly creeping,
accomplishing his purpose without attention,
The wise little mouse trusts the Creator.
Help me, small one, to true and find initiative
So that wonderful changes come my way.

When the sand storms start again, it is time to leave the desert:

Courage stands in the middle between cowardice and foolhardiness.


Anne Edelstam, Paris

About Anne

Swedish journalist, photographer, editor and writer. Based in Paris, France.