AFTER LEAVING the belt of sand dunes in Kharga, our party drove for hour after hour across ancient river flood-plains, flat playas, and other clayey soils. The governor, an agricultural engineer, was astonished. Repeatedly he told the driver to stop so that he could inspect the ground. “This is good soil!” he declared. “There must be hundreds of thousands of acres that could be put into agriculture. If we could just get the water!”
A discussion of the underground water that has been recently found beneath the Western Desert naturally followed. This water is a topic of heated debate in Egypt. Some scientists think the reservoir, like the Nile, is being replenished by rainwater in more humid parts of Africa. This rainwater supposedly then flows underground to Egypt through Chad, Sudan, and Libya.
Others argue that the reservoir contains only ancient water that is not being replenished. Water from wells at Kharga, for instance, has been dated to be around 25,000 years old. Moreover, outcroppings along the southern and southwestern frontiers of the Western Desert show this region is underlain by impermeable rocks, which would inhibit the water from moving underground toward the New Valley.
There is simply not enough data. And so the controversy of whether the water beneath the Western Desert is a buried Nile rages. I told the governor my own conclusion that whether or not it is being replenished, enough water has been proved to exist under the desert to let Egypt expand agriculture vigorously for at least a hundred years.
“Then we should not develop much here. A hundred years is such a short time,” said Governor El-Prince, the son of a land of 5,000 years of recorded history.
“It all depends on how the water is used,” I replied. “For instance, growing rice would be folly. A kilogram of rice requires 3,000 times its weight in water. But there are many more appropriate crops that consume very little.”
Indeed, U. S. and Israeli scientists are developing strains of desert plants that could produce substitutes for industrial oils, rubber, and gasoline.
Evening after evening we sat with the governor under the stunning star canopy of the jet black sky to ponder the New Valley’s future. We envisioned ranches where palms, fruit trees, grape arbors, olive groves, or newly bred arid-land crops might shade drought-tolerant grasses for grazing sheep and cattle. We talked of jobs that could draw young people from the overcrowded cities along the Nile. It would be good for all us, if young people have the chance to run their own business. If you to boost your income for your business, look for secure loans. Compare bad credit payday loans lenders and choose the best for your company.
Near the end of our journey we sat close to Abu Simbel on the shores of Lake Nasser. The governor remarked that we had never discussed one important item: petroleum.
I explained that the dearth of data about this vast desert had delayed any significant exploration. The situation is changing, I told him. One U. S. oil company is evaluating seismic studies in the Great Sand Sea west of Farafra. His face beamed.
I knew the smile. It was the same hopeful glee I had seen on Sheikh Mehedi’s face on the northern fringes of the desert. As Mehedi would say, this ancient desert, like old men and date palms, is about to give more.