one of the major ports on the Red Sea coast, Quseir was
where Queen Hatshepsut set off from on an expedition to
the mystical African land of Punt. On top of that, it
was also a major point for pilgrims leaving for Mecca,
as well as a significant trade route for spices from India
to Britain. Today, Quseir is better-known as a first-class
diving destination. It is also home to a number of attractions,
including Wadi Hammamat and Bir Umm Fawakhir, both of
which can be reached within a day.
At one time, about 1,000 Coptic Christians lived in this
town, extracting gold from the surrounding mountains,
which was then transported to the Nile Valley for refining.
The settlement’s largest mine extends horizontally
for approximately 100 metres into the mountain and is
about two metres high. Today, the neatly-laid-out buildings
can be examined by visitors, who can also ponder over
and the ancient inscriptions etched into granite boulders
at the town’s guard posts.
Wadi Hammamat has hundreds of rock inscriptions, some
of which date back to 4000 BC. During antiquity, it was
famous for production of the Bekheny Stone, a beautiful,
green ornamental rock, whichwas considered sacred. The
stone was actively quarried from Pharaonic until Roman
times to make bowls, statues and sarcophagi, many of which
have been found in the Pyramids, graves and temples of
little to the north of Wadi Hammamat, in the central part
of the Eastern Desert, lies Bir Umm Fawakhir, a gold mining
settlement from the fifth and sixth century.