Sinai adventure: Nawamis - Mysterious stone buildings in the Sinai desert

Sinai desert! Spectacular and fascinating, warm and mysterious. A place without borders, where the domed sky ceiling surrounds you warmly in its arms,  and also a place that keeps many many secrets. The desert will welcome you, and will give you the opportunity to welcome it too :)

If you are dreaming of new adventures and experiances and in the same time you want to feel real desert experiance, an exceptional camel safari can bring you to Nawamis site, in the center of gorgeous and peaceful Sinai desert.

The Nawamis site is not visible from the main road, although there is a dirt road leading to it. The wadi leading to Gebel Matamir starts shortly after the Nawamis site. There is a Bedouin settlement close by and the cafeteria at Hajar Maktub, where you can hire a guide or camels. 

And there you will find complexes with small circular stone structures named nawamisTheir name,comes from namus meaning mosquitos in Arabic. According to Bedouin legend, the nawamis were built as protection against mosquitoes by the Israelites of the Exodus during their wanderings in Sinai. The Bedouin also give the more likely explanation that the term namusiyeh (plural nawamis ) refers to any separate or freestanding structure.

From the burial goods and human remains found in the nawamis, we know that they were built around 4,500 BCE as tombs by nomadic herders. These remarkably preserved stone buildings are thus the world's oldest remains of a pastoral nomadic society.

All structures are well-built cylinders made from carefully selected, but not dressed, sandstone. The inner wall was constructed with a corbeling technique. This corbeling technique is well known from later periods. The founder of Egypt's 4th Dynasty, Sneferu (2575-2551 B.C.), built the first Egyptian corbeled chamber in his North Pyramid at Dahshur, at the southern end of the Memphis necropolis. The nawamis are at least 500 years older than the North Pyramid. They thus provide some of the world's earliest known examples of the use of corbeling, along with the roughly contemporaneous megalithic temples on the island of Malta. No doubt the lack of wood in the desert motivated the nomads of Sinai to develop this elegant roofing solution.

How do we date these enigmatic structures? The answer lies in the objects buried with the disarticulated bones in the nawamis. The task is made difficult by the fact that each of the 24 structures which were examinied had been disturbed in antiquity. This means that our dates for the nawamis remain somewhat speculative. To fix the dates of the tombs with certainty, we would need to find an undisturbed, sealed nawamis. Nonetheless, by sieving the sand and rubble inside the structures, evidence was found to date them to the 4 th millennium B.C.

The nawamis culture was a flash in historical time, lasting only about 300 years. When the Egyptians began to build the great pyramids in the mid-third millennium B.C., the nomads who buried their dead in strange stone desert huts had already lived out their history—or at least what we know of it. 

The pyramids, with all their grandeur and majesty, seem built for eternity. What is astonishing is that the small, modest stone structures in Sinai also still stand strong in the battle against leveling time.

Thx to CENTRE FOR SINAI and DISCOVER SINAI, on their very detailed information and amazing web sites :)

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