Wednesday, May 26, 2010
The lost oasis of Zerzura is a legend that has spurred many on to explore the Western Desert over the years but has always remained elusive. Mentioned by medieval Arab travellers and written about as a site of buried treasure in the Book of Hidden Pearls, Zerzura has excited imaginations over the centuries. Maspero, a famous curator of the Egyptian Museum, was so frustrated by the haphazard damage being done to Egyptian monuments he decided to get the Book of Hidden Pearls officially translated into French, in 1907. He mistakenly believed that by putting a stop to the flow of inaccurate translations, which were causing treasure hunters to wildly speculate as to the actual site of Zerzura, he would put an end to the belief in the myth of Zerzura.
Zerzura was thought to be 5 or 6 days west from Farafra but no-one could find it. Even the generally level-headed were seduced by the prospect of finding the fabled oasis. All the respected explorers of the time had their own theory about the location of Zerzura. Rohlfs was convinced it lay to the west of Dakhla, Almasy thought it was in the Gilf Kebir itself. A Zerzura Club was formed and the Royal Geographical Society even sponsored trips to find the oasis. Only Bagnold remained practical calling Zerzura the wish oasis and writing that the world needed an idea like Zerzura to spur people on to explore remote parts but that eventually it would have to be admitted that Zerzura was just a fantasy.