What can he have been thinking of – that lonely Roman roaming alone in this wilderness of stone…so far from home? Still, it made his name, as he was happy to let us know on a secluded stela, ‘I found the stone’ he wrote. And it was the stone, if you were a Roman. It was just the colour to make your blood run blue, and your urine…?? Did the Egyptians not find this stone, or can it be that they simply did not much like it? Certainly its value was enhanced by its incredible rarity, and the difficulty with which it was obtained from this far flung place. The quarrymen seem to have lived and worked scattered on the top of mountain peaks, but they did come down to the valley to pray at a rather nice temple.
Time to go before the sun sets too low and sheds a purple glow. We do not want to be caught here so far from the road in the dark.
The previous day we had explored another, most imposing, Roman site – also in perfect desert solitude. There had been a temple there, with inscribed stones, too. We had spent some time searching round the ramps and mysterious cairns of the quarry workings until we had found what we sought – an absolutely colossal column which never made it to Hadrian’s masterpiece in Rome.
Next day we head south and then turn inland along an ancient trade route which was controlled by the Roman forts that line the road. I am most captivated by the watch towers that overlook the entire route, apparently always inter-visible with each other, the road, and the forts. However, the main attraction has to be a place of written rocks. Numerous Egyptian kings claim to have come here to collect this special sacred stone. One king even says that he spent time in the library making sure he was getting the right rock. It is a strange stone – fine grained and brittle, it looks blue or purple, but its grey? Was this what made it magical? Time to go once more, and leave the mountains now, past more Roman forts, until we reach the Nile Valley and all that bustle.
1. What was the stone found by the lonely Roman?
2. What was the imposing Roman site near which we found the column?
3. Where were the written rocks and the sacred stone?